Eastern Europe.. spherical momentum declines

Eastern Europe.. spherical momentum declines

There is a theory that, with the exception of Uruguay during the first World Cup in 1930, every World Cup winner was influenced in some way by the wave of great Hungarian coaches that swept the world after the First World War. .
The theory is not entirely weak, although some question it. On the other hand, no one doubts that the “counter-press”, which is perhaps the dominant technique in the modern game, has its roots in the Soviet Union – when it appeared in a friendly match in 1983 between the German team “Victoria Bucknang” and the team “Dynamo Kyiv” “, led by the distinguished Ukrainian coach Valery Lobanovskii. The press itself, whose introduction in the 1960s undoubtedly marked the birth of modern football, was developed by Viktor Maslov, a Russian coach who achieved great success with Torpedo Moscow and Dynamo Kyiv.
These are not isolated examples of influence. For most of the twentieth century, football looked to the East for inspiration. And in two different periods, before and after World War II, Eastern Europe was a beacon of modern and progressive thinking in football. But at the World Cup currently being held in Qatar, only three of the 32 participating teams belong to the former communist bloc, and it has been 23 years since a team from the region last reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. . Today, with its top coaches far removed from the highest levels of the game, the region has turned into just another talent producer for the rich Western European leagues.
From the heart of the game to a land devoid of talent, Eastern Europe has a story to tell about the power of politics and economics to shape the destiny of sport.
While the brightest intellectuals left Hungary in the 1920s and 1930s, the influx of Hungarian talent continued due to the intense rivalry between two Budapest giants: MBK, an assimilated middle-class Jewish club, and Ferencváros, whose fans were mostly working-class and ethnic German. However, politics intervened.
The MTK was closed by the right-wing regime of Miklós Horty in 1942, and Ferencváros was deliberately downsized by the communist government that came to power in 1947. Although the nationalization brought short-lived success — it led Hungary to the cup final. The World in 1954 – However, damaged by the mass defections that followed the Soviet suppression of the 1956 rebellion, Budapest’s two great sources of soccer culture soon dried up. The Hungarian game never recovered.
After the absence of Hungary, the center of Eastern European football moved to the Soviet Union itself; In the sixties of the last century, Maslov prepared the floor. But it was Lobanovsky, originally a mathematician, who really pushed things forward. He was an advocate of pressing and a pioneer in the use of computer analysis in match preparations – together with IT scientist Anatoli Zelencovi. In between, he led Dynamo Kyiv to two Cup Winners’ Cups and led the Soviet Union to second place at the 1988 European Championship.
But that period ended with the collapse of communism. As the region suffered an economic downturn, its most talented players and coaches left – and the government funding that kept clubs and academies afloat was cut. The infrastructure of football clubs has been emptied, especially at a time when the arrival of the Champions League has increased the income of elite clubs.
The effect was disastrous. At the 1990 World Cup, only four of the 24 teams that competed were from Eastern Europe. Four years earlier, Steaua Bucharest, a Romanian military club, won the European Cup (before changing its name to the “UEFA Champions League”) and reached the final again in 1989. Two years later, as Yugoslavia fell to A civil war, they won Belgrade club “Crvena zvezda”. Since then, no team from Serbia or Romania has managed to reach the group stage of the Champions League, while a bitter ownership dispute has erupted between two different clubs who claim to be an extension of the original Stoia team.
Steaua may be an extreme example, but corruption, lack of organization and lack of resources are problems that haunt football in Eastern Europe. Even in the former East Germany there is a great disparity with the West. When Germany won the World Cup in 2014, there was only one player from the East in their squad. And in the “Bundesliga”, the first football league in Germany, there are only two clubs from the east, each of which is isolated in its own way from the economic difficulties of the region.
In the current World Cup, Poland, Serbia and Croatia – which despite numerous obstacles and difficulties achieve continuous positive results – will do their best. But his performance will show how far the region has fallen. Soccer can be a global sport, accessible to anyone with a ball. However, as the Eastern European experience unfortunately shows, it cannot escape from historical volatility.

Published by special arrangement with The New York Times Service.

Canonical URL: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/22/opinion/world-cup-poland-serbia-croatia.html

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