Despite a chronic lack of time, football is something that our CSO has an increasing passion for – maybe absence really does make the heart grow fonder – and 16th December 2012 saw him, pyjamas barely addressed, in front of a television like the good old days, managing to catch no less than 45 minutes (plus summaries) of the 2012 FIFA Club World Cup final between Sport Club Corinthians Paulista and Chelsea Football Club. But away from the slow-burning classic that played itself out on the pitch – the counter-attacking, solid Brazilians winning out over the samba football proffered by the international Londoners in a thoroughly postmodern Yokohama encounter – our CSO was increasingly perturbed by the BBC’s match analysis.
In particular, the assembled punditry’s treatment of the Chelsea striker Fernando Torres bordered on the surreal. Always lively, the forward nearly scored one of the great goals of this century in the first half with a sublime first touch and volley; a Chelsea equaliser surely would have been his in the second half but for the excellent goalkeeping of Cássio Ramos, later awarded the Golden Ball for his outstanding performances throughout the tournament. Yet Torres was, according to the BBC caption, having a ‘torrid’ time; every move of his was scrutinised as part of a ‘Torreswatch’, as denominated by the otherwise unusually good anchor Manish Bhasin.
This pattern continued the following Wednesday (19th December 2012) when the BBC – which chose to eschew telecasting much of the FIFA Club World Cup, despite it being one of the very few tournaments they hold the broadcasting rights to – showed late-night highlights of Chelsea’s 5-1 quarter-final away defeat of Leeds United. Torres – who worked tirelessly throughout – remained ‘unconvincing’. The fact that he cleverly netted Chelsea’s fifth goal was spun as being barely attributable to him.
Yet a simple online check reveals that Torres is actually his club’s top scorer this season, with 12 goals in 25 games giving him a ratio of a little under one goal every two games in a side that places a heavy emphasis on goalscoring contributions from the attacking midfield trio floating just behind Chelsea’s number nine: Torres’ compatriot Juan Mata, Belgian Eden Hazard and the Kakáesque Oscar dos Santos Emboaba Júnio.
So why the non-stop deprecation of Fernando Torres by an embittered national broadcaster?
1. Paranoia. Does the Torres-baiting reflect our own paranoia? That, in an era where unsubstantiated anti-immigrant sentiment has become normal across much of Europe, our enthusiasm to place every action of a prominent foreigner under the microscope of modern camera technology betrays our own inability to produce anything resembling the quality of a player who is a current European and world champion with his country?
2. Straight Lines. Torres has been the subject of countless back pages – tabloid and semi-tabloid – since around the middle of 2010 as a perceived loss of injury-catalysed form and fitness lead to some admittedly dry spells in front of goal. But in the careers of most professional footballers (and indeed those of professionals as a whole), patches of inconsistency do happen, particularly when obvious injuries are complicating the picture. Is Torres’ lavishly-decorated career – in spite of what any compromised hack might opine – jarring? Do some of us actively want him to fail? And if so, why?