Sunday

The Anatomy of a Footballer

Professional footballers are apparently not built like you and I. From head to toe, their bodies are subject to an entirely different terminology to the Average Joe. 


Used figuratively as often as it is literally, the concept of the head in football is conveniently vague. Composed young footballers are said to have an old head on young shoulders, at least until they lose their head, at which point they need an arm around their shoulder. Players who lack genuine pace are able to call upon the yard in their head (pace is quantified simply in yards, on a narrow scale from 0.5-1). 

A predatory striker is said to have an eye for goal, which occasionally involves giving the goalkeeper the eyes (having seen the whites of them), despite often having one eye (or half an eye) on an upcoming fixture. Meanwhile, today's mutant referees are required to have eyes in the back of their head

Calling upon the other senses, players can sniff out a chance if their team smells blood (unless they're not given a sniff) but only after the two teams have finished feeling each other out. Hearing is less frequently referenced, but the universal gesture for a footballer not hearing something (a referee's whistle, or a goalkeeper's shout) is unmistakable:



A goalkeeper faces the frequent prospect of a shot arriving straight down his throat, which in reality is much less threatening than it sounds. One can only assume that big-money signings wear their price tags around their necks, while players still subject to a hands-off warning have their price tag slapped upon their person.

A particularly goal-shy centre-forward must bear the burden of both a monkey and the crowd on his back. The well-established (if rather dubious) remedy for his goal drought, however, is for one to go in off his backside.

In the game of football, the hands and arms are a consistently controversial region of the body. Penalty areas are frequent witnesses to a suspicion of a hand while everyone knows that as soon as you raise your hands, you're asking for trouble. Goalkeepers must possess a strong hand while making sure errant crosses are plucked out of the air using their grateful hands. Palms, meanwhile, exist only to be "stung" - the act of palming away has slowly been superseded by the more menacing-sounding clawing away.

No sports scientist has yet been able to determine the whereabouts of a player's engine, but it is likely to be found in a lung-bursting location near the centre of the body. There's no real room for innuendo in football commentary, but a great deal of mirth is reserved for when a player is struck in the unmentionables by a shot or a boot. 

And so the business end of the footballer's anatomy. The legs seem the most obvious place to find the ever-elusive malicious bone, but loyal managers have rendered the search fruitless. The most notable part of the lower-body skeleton is surely the dreaded metatarsal, which homo sapiens only developed in the early 2000s if the succession of major tournament-disrupting breaks to the feet of your Beckhams, your Rooneys, your Nevilles and your Owens are anything to go by. 

Flat-footed defenders are exposed by fleet-footed wingers, and given a torrid time by jet-heeled ones, resulting (in extreme cases) in twisted blood. Appropriately, some footballers' feet are now beyond cliché - the good feet for a big man are now rarely referenced unknowingly. A distinct bias towards the exotic, sinistral footballer has always been in evidence - left feet are educated and cultured, while any old neanderthal can swing his right boot.

When a footballer finally loses that half a yard, it is said that his legs have gone. Luckily, fresh legs are always on hand (so to speak) to replace them.

9 comments:

The Sultan said...

What about the old classic 'chocolate wrists' for a keeper who should've kept out a weak effort? Seems to have died out in the modern era that one.

Joe J said...

Brilliant, brilliant and thrice brilliant.

But...

Where's the barrel chest? No capable-but-ultimately-rubbish-and-a-bit-fat journeyman English centre-forward would be complete without it.

James said...

Brilliant as usual, love the malicious bone bit! I would like to see twinkletoes make a comeback, personally

Ben Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ben Smith said...

I was always under the impression that goalkeepers who struggle to catch weak shots have 'butter fingers'?!

Rich Johnson said...

The 'barrel chest' was largely discredited by Diego Maradona, who combined it fatally with swarthiness, strut and being foreign.

Rich Johnson said...

Also, I don't think pace has been 'jet-heeled' for a long time, has it? It's usually 'scorching,' 'lightning', or both superfluous and flammable, 'to burn.'

Pete Lang said...

Cultured or educated left feet are often capable of 'opening a tin of beans'

Ozsportsdude said...

This is just so many million kinds of awesome, I just really wish you hadn't out in brackets 'out of body' under malicious bone. I was looking at it on a tiny screen and didn't see that part and the real humour genius of that is when you read malicious bone and then in a couple a seconds it dawns on you what it means, that is what makes it so hilarious, that moment as you work it out, putting the brackets below takes away that part of the joke.

A tiny quibble admittedly, still a really really great post.