Ignorant

From this morning’s Guardian, an article on Sven Goran Erickson’s non-attendance of an international football symposium in Germany. Lennart Johansson says that Sven has had enough of the UK media circus for the time being. I find that entirely understandable. The early days of the World Cup were marked by a variety of newspapers and weblogs rehearsing tired, discriminatory, bigoted clichees about the soccer culture in the United States. That the same people’s treatment of Sven doesn’t make them feel hot with shame tells me, at least, that there’s something deeply sick about the football culture here. But that’s not what’s ignorant. This is what’s ignorant:

Indeed, judging by Johansson’s comments, he could possibly do worse than spend some of it booking private sessions with Bill Beswick, England’s new sports psychologist and guru cum mentor to Eriksson’s successor, Steve McClaren. Yet even Beswick, a relentlessly enthusiastic exponent of the art of turning negatives into positives, might struggle to convince the one-time Lazio coach that his six years with England were a resounding success after all.

I think I’d be flattering Louise Taylor were I to give her the benefit of the doubt by assuming that she knows the difference between a sports psychologist and a psychotherapist: that word “guru” again gives her away.

I suppose if this blog is for anything, it’s for this, so, once again: sports psychology is a branch of psychology proper, which is a largely epidemiological science devoted to the study of human behaviour. Sports psychology exists to discover and propagate successful sporting behaviour. Psychotherapy has few intellectual or academic links with psychology, and is devoted to the attempted relief of various levels of mental distress. For our purposes, they are all but unrelated.

Perhaps I’m kidding myself, but I think this is something that people with claims to intelligence should already know. Then again, it’s becoming a theme here that football is where the English go to be stupid, and the vaguely ladette feel to Taylor’s article suggests that she’s not going to be the one to break ranks.

She goes on to mention that Sven’s previous report to the FA – about Euro 2004 – was thin on tactics. May I suggest that the reason for that is that it’s not Sven who has no knowledge or interest in tactics, but his report’s intended audience? There is something odd about the way we hear on the one hand, and in the same papers, that the England squad are unwilling to look beyond 4-4-2, whilst blaming the manager for their inability to adapt to each other’s play on the pitch. Sven wouldn’t be the first foreign manager to find that his tactical experience became the equivalent of pearls before swine after a move to England. Gianluca Vialli says just that in The Italian Job, and quotes others.

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