The secret to football success for small people

I’m pretty excited about the Champions League Final this weekend. My favourite team is playing my favourite team to watch. Man Utd v Barcelona. It doesn’t get much bigger than this. The fate of both teams essentially rests on the shoulders of two little men, a midfield maestro hailed as the best of all time, and a midfield dynamo who will be charged with the task of containing him. Lionel Messi v Park Ji Sung.

The secret to Lionel’s success, according to an interview with the NY Times, is joy, and Barcelona’s amazing youth system.

Quickly enough, though, he immersed himself in the Barcelona style, which demands flair and creativity, not mere utility. He played the keep-away game called El Rondo, in which one player stands inside a circle trying to steal passes made in tight spaces. He mastered the system known as tiki-taka, built around short, rhythmic passes and movement described by Iniesta as “receive, pass, offer,” triangular exchanges that form a spellbinding geometry.

On occasion, Messi does break his reticence. On Thursday, he said he played with the same eagerness that he did in Argentina when he improvised soccer balls from stones and women’s tights and cans of cola. “I have fun like a child in the street,” he said. “When the day comes when I’m not enjoying it, I will leave football.”

The secret to Park’s success is a little more sinister. Frog juice. Urgh.

“My father went to catch wild frogs. I was skinny and weak and my father heard their juice would give me size and strength,” Park said.

“It tasted very, very bad but I had to drink it because I wanted to be a footballer and everyone said I needed to be bigger and stronger.

“They said it was good for my health to become stronger and I ate anything that would improve my health.”


I don’t know about sinister. Eating the blood of frenchmen isn’t such a bad thing.