Football can undeniably be a beautiful game, hence the common name. But (let’s be honest here) it’s usually not. Not at all. It usually consists of disappointment and a complete lack of that stuff the Nike adverts call “Joga Bonito“.
That’s the marketing man’s concept of the game, one that bares little comparison to 22 blokes who couldn’t trap a bag of cement kicking lumps out of each other and failing to understand the offside rule.
I love football, and don’t necessarily think that it’s inherent beauty comes from the passages of play. The history, the fans, those little stories about people within the game are just as important, but of course the odd moment of magic doesn’t hurt.
On Sunday things were following a familiar plan. Against a not terribly good Ingolstadt side, 1.FC Union were flattering to deceive. Although Union had made most of the running in the game so far, it was 0-1 to their opponents after a characteristic lapse at the back.
The fans around were silent when it went in. There was a slight “ohforfuckssake“ kind of expulsion of air, but most didn’t bat an eyelid. Ahmed Reda Madouni had gone out to the right following the ball, Christian Stuff got caught in no man’s land as it wriggled through and Maurice Hartmann loitered in a mile of space behind, with all the time in the world to slot it home.
There was no communication, and once again Union had made things difficult for themselves when it seemed so unnecessary.
Stuff would make up for his part in the goal by scoring the equaliser. Madouni hit the post not long after as well, so he was almost forgiven. But they are there to defend, not to score. One job should come first.
At 1-1 people relaxed. Ingolstadt hadn’t brought much to the party, and Union were everywhere. It was a joy to see Michael Parensen returning to his best form after two horrendous and heartbreaking injuries.
It was gratifying to see Markus Karl making the job of the sechser look so simple compared to Dominic Peitz’s effective but hardly pretty (or effective) chicken-without-a-head routine.
Torsten Mattuschka had returned to the middle and was showing that he was determined not to get dropped again – in fact his goal, Union’s third, was as he barged through the Ingolstadt defense with the ball on his toes. No grace, little finesse, just a simple determination that this one was not getting away from him.
But those who were there will still be wearing that stupid disbelieving grin when they remember Silvio Carlos de Oliveira’s first goal, Union’s second. It wasn’t sublime; it was bombastic.
Patrick Kohlmann hit a long high ball out to the man whose armband he had been wearing last week, Mattuschka, out on the right wing. He had time to control, but instead hit it side-footed first time on the volley, square into the box where Silvio hung in the air, in the way one imagines Michael Jordan gets into the top bunk.
It happened in the blink of an eye over 80 yards, but took an age. He was parallel to the floor, and volleyed it home with a flourish. Flying.
So simple, yet unplayable. A glorious retort to those who have bemoaned Union’s attacking threat this season. The men from Nike will watch it on YouTube and know that this is what they think football really looks like.
It doesn’t, as we have already discussed, but that one passage of play will give a lot of hope to those who will see worse games at the Alte Försterei in the coming months.
They can stand in the cold and remember a blindingly hot day in September when, just for a moment, it seemed as if they had chosen to support the winning team all along.
When, just for a moment – in the words of Barnsley’s supporters in their one year in the Premiership – “It’s just like watching Brazil“.