Two famous quotations attach themselves to soccer, football in English parlance, and its status as the biggest and best sport on planet Earth.
The first is that football is “the beautiful game,” a phrase attributed to Pele. The Brazilian, the greatest player of the 20th century, entitled his 1977 autobiography “My Life and the Beautiful Game.”
Pele was correct in that football, more than just about any other sport, can produce moments of supreme aesthetics. But the “beautiful game,” or jogo bonito, to use the Portuguese that was used for a 1998 Nike advertising campaign, pinpoints only one facet of football.
There is just as much ugliness in soccer as there is beauty. The game can give rise to some supreme skulduggery to match all the skill and athleticism on show.
Even Pep Guardiola, manager of Manchester City, perhaps the best coach in the world, has generated criticism with his teams playing the most expansive football.
Guardiola’s Barcelona teams that won the Champions League in 2009 and 2011 may have featured Lionel Messi, but they were notorious for the tactical fouls that stopped opponents’ attacks.