It’s time that we admit that no one really wants to be a defender
Defenders are the designated drivers of the soccer world. And that’s OK because DDs are vital to parties and keeping you safe — but that doesn’t mean that they’re not boring people or that I have to like them. Imagine being a child who goes to bed every night and dreams of clearances, vital interceptions and scoring the occasional headed goal from a corner. Is that the type of bad influence that you would want around your children? That’s the kid that tries to keep everyone from killing each other over Monopoly. Yeah, thanks for saving my life but sheesh, let someone get stabbed with a small metal hat for once.
To be clear, some of my best friends are defenders… but I’ve never met anyone who grew up with posters of a perfect offside trap on their wall. Being a defender is just kinda something you become when you’re not cool enough for the other positions. It’s like becoming a lawyer. Sure, it’s pretty great defending and helping innocent people gain their freedom but wouldn’t you rather be a handsome, skydiving, wave-surfing, multimillionaire model? Wouldn’t you rather be a winger?
@Phaetonv2 It’s like having sex and trying to prevent an orgasm
— Travieso (@CaliGooner23) August 12, 2014
If you’ve ever played soccer on the streets/playgrounds/indoors/basketball courts, you know that there’s a certain hierarchy for picking players and positions. If you can shoot the ball really hard, or you’re tall and strong, you automatically play striker. You’re the focal point. If things get rough, screw it, boot it up to the tall guy and have him hold it up or head the goal in. If you’re fast, you already know that you’re a winger. There’s no choice here. If you wanted to play somewhere else then blow out your ACL and move to midfield. Take some initiative.
Now if you happen to be extremely good-looking, cool and possess unlimited skills, you have a few more options. You can be the lazy playmaker, the most revered position in all of the playgrounds; you receive the ball and the world is your oyster. All eyes are on you. You can feel the envy and jealousy of the other players, the silence of anticipation is only broken by the sound of thousands of fans blowing kisses at you from the sidelines. You’re the king of back-heels, the master of the roulette, the Sensei of the school of teaching when defenders reach. Tricks and flicks is the name of the game and the other players are just fodder for your highlight video. But you never track back, because that’s for ugly people.
You can also be the second striker. This is for players who have the speed of wingers but would rather put a defender on skates than cross the ball. This position almost demands that you never pass the ball. Most of the time you will be doing some irresponsibly dirty trick before losing the ball — which is cool because the trick will be talked about for a long time. It balances out.
Or if you’re a masochist and you actually enjoy “tactics” and “putting in effort”, you become a central midfielder.
But the cruel fate of playground rules means that the rest of the (not-so-good) kids are the ones that become defenders. If you have a little speed, maybe you can be a fullback and just ignore your defensive duties, but that’s all you can really hope for. It’s just natural selection. Blame nature.
That’s not to say that there aren’t awesome defenders. Some of my all-time favorite players are defenders: Paolo Malidini, Alessandro Nesta, Thiago Silva, the T-300 terminator known as Nemanja Vidic. But they’re like seatbelts, and no matter how cool or vital a seatbelt is — one even saved Kanye’s life –, it’s still just a seatbelt. When you want to show that you’re enjoying life and living on the wild side after buying a Ferrari, what do you do? You drop the top, take off your seatbelt and let the wind have its way with your hair; otherwise known as the Pep Guardiola.
Maybe there are some people who genuinely love the excitement of 50/50 aerial challenges and the chance to give away a penalty with a mistimed slide tackle, but I refuse to believe it. My older brother swears that he loves being a defender but won’t stop going on about the one time he dribbled past two players and scored a goal. I know, and our coaches know, that he only became a defender after I buried his hopes and dreams with a vicious cutback that led to his ankle injury and a fractured spirit. The defensive third was his retirement home. I’m sure most defenders also get misty-eyed, just like he does, when they see attackers doing stepovers and cutbacks as memories and dreams of happier times flood their minds.
As for goalkeepers, I have no clue why anyone would want to be one. My best guess is that they’re sadists because if you shoot a ball at me, I’m taking it as a death threat and retaliating as such.