In the week where Hanover 96’s coach, Mirko Slomka announced that the club would no longer be buying players having only seen them on video (because Franca was 9cm shorter than he was supposed to be on arrival) it is best that we all learn a lesson and stop taking Youtube clips for granted. Maybe he had made the classic Dougal from Father Ted mistake and not realised the difference between being small and far away. Maybe Slomka should have just asked to see Franca standing next to a bus or whatever it is they have in Hanover (apart from Slomka himself) that sets it apart from the rest of the world. Oh, That’ll just be Mirko Slomka then.
The Youtube video is a pox on football. It is a zoom shot, hovering right over a lone unsightly, spidery, thick black hair on Grace Kelly’s arse – nothing on it should be taken at face value, as it defies all sense of context. Outside of the fact that one can lose hours in a catatonic state just watching goals from the past (oblivious to the fact that your wife has been trying to tell you for the last hour that she is about to leave you for the builder), it is so easily manipulated that it becomes impossible to gauge at all whether something was either amazing or terrible, inspired or cackhanded – or for that matter small or far away.
Baris Özbek is a case in point. 1.FC Union’s new signing is the star of a video that would have been the first one many fans had seen as soon as they saw the news of his imminent arrival. It is less flattering than a portrait of Franck Ribery done by Paris Hilton with her left over Christmas crayons. It is a cavalcade of beautifully imagined but poorly executed misplaced passes, a shower of inept feints and brainless balls into spaces occupied only by opposition defenders. Obviously the maker of it had what our chums in the world of hip hop would call a beef with the midfielder during his time spent at Galatasaray. It all comes from one game against Ankaragücu, is called the “Baris Özbek show”, and is set to the kind of orchestral breakbeats that everybody without a whiff of imagination, but access to pro tools, knocked out in the wake of DJ Shadow’s two years of genius followed by ten years of plodding mediocrity.
Needless to say, we shouldn’t base too much on our impressions of Özbek until he actually takes the field. After all, a compilation of the sort dedicated to the misplaced passes of one of his Eisern predecessors, the gloriously driven and almost universally adored, but all too often technically inept Dominic Peitz, could make Ben Hur look like an episode of Bauer Sucht Frau.
The fact that Özbek got 16 caps for the German under-21’s and is a Turkish double winner would imply that some of those who actually know the game rate him as a player of considerably more skill than the video equivalent of a cheap bar slagging off would suggest.
Unfortunately, this is the football world we live in where some, all of a sudden (although this is not necessarily just a recent development) think that they are a tactical genius cast from a mixed up mould of Gary Kasparov and Valery Lobanovsky. Because we have read online about false number nines and the advancement of the attacking full back, it means that we are allowed to spout forth relentlessly about things that we, really, have no understanding of at all. I certainly do it and I bet you have too.
Baris Özbek won’t be starting for Union this weekend as the 2.Bundesliga finally kicks off again after the interminable Winterpause. Michael Parensen will be taking the field as Union’s Sechser (“ooh, a left footed, converted full back / winger playing at the foot of the midfield diamond? That parallels the development of the invisible inside right in Paraguay in the fifties. I heard Jonathan Wilson talk about that once”), so we will have to wait for a couple of weeks until a retort can be edited together to the “Baris Özbek Show”.
Özbek is lucky in that at Union he will be playing in front of a crowd that will already herald him as a Fußballgott simply for wearing the shirt, and who mostly seem to have taken the video for the hack job that it is – at many other clubs the boneheaded cries of dissent dragged out simply because of a short Youtube clip would have been drowning out the voices of reason already. But when that video does appear online, lets just take it for what it is – a snapshot. We all get a lot more out of football when we actually concentrate on the games themselves, and not just the cobbled together cumshots of the sort that the SKY TV producers think is a suitable representation of the game.