A Little Showing Off Is Good In Soccer

When I say showing off what I mean is doing what you are good at and the fans want to see. Doing what you put all the time and energy into and excel at. Put on a show when you step on the soccer field. Yes do all the simple things that is the game, but when there’s that moment and you’re feeling it, go for it.

I was in Spain watching Barcelona play Sevilla when Rivaldo played for them. Before Ronaldinho. Prior the Messi era. In advance of Barcelona really became a juggernaut. Before tiki taka. Still Barca of course, but you know. I saw the bicycle kick game winner, too, before this Sevilla game.

At one point during the Sevilla game Rivaldo got the soccer ball around midfield and just sort of held it for a while and shielded opposing players from the ball for a few moments. There was some cheering and some whistling and jeering too.

It was something you just didn’t see very often or at all. Rivaldo was tempting them to try to take the ball off his foot. Belittling them, as controlled the ball as though they were little kids trying to take the ball from a grownup. He could have passed the ball or dribbled away but he kind of just hung out in the center circle area with the ball as if the game had stopped.

Rivaldo was in his prime. At the peak of his football career. He’d just scored a hat trick to will Barcelona past Valencia and into the Champions League the next year, along with the game winning bike to top the performance off.

But the fact that he could do it, why not do it. Shield the ball like that and tease the other players. Was it too much? A bit too arrogant. Probably so. I still liked it though.

I wonder if Rivaldo remembers this moment in Sevilla.

Some showing off is good in soccer. Trying new moves and skills. Kevin de Bruyne says that kids who aspire to play like him should not worry about making mistakes. Keep trying that trick or move in games.

Then you think about Cristiano Ronaldo doing all those crazy step overs early on in his career. Too many. Ronaldo still did them as he got older but not so many all at once! But he didn’t stop doing tricks or “showing off” when it was on.

It makes me think of Gio Reyna. How he is one of the few players on the United States team that can show off from time to time. Gio had two moments of ‘showing off’ in games versus Mexico a year ago and Canada just recently. A mazy dribbling run and a shielding like keeping of the ball while surrounded and harassed by Canadian defenders.

After seeing the dribbling by Gio versus Mexico, certainly Gregg Berhalter should have realized he had to feature Gio in the team more during the World Cup in Qatar. His creativity is what you need in the team. And I don’t think he’s showing off. He’s just feeling it. But soccer coaches should encourage that freedom of play.

Of course Messi is the king of showing off without showing off. It is just the way he plays. Dead set on unlocking the defense with a dribble or a pass or by standing still. He’s kind of the anti-show off in fact. He’s beyond football.

Neymar, of course, knows how to show off. And he should show off as much as possible. Famously he was hacked down in game for trying to do a rainbow flick. The man had the entire weight of the country on his back when those hosted the Olympics and they had to win. He led them to the gold medal despite all the pressure. He can show off if he wants.

Neymar doesn’t have to use his heel to control the ball, but thankfully he does every now and again. I wonder what effect it has on the opposing team. Surely it makes them angry or frustrated and probably embarrasses them a bit which can’t help the next moment when Neymar is there again trying to go past them. They must be a bit afraid.

But not many Americans show off. Clint Dempsey, yes. Of course Bruce Arena said famously he tries sh*t. Dempsey doesn’t play tentatively! He puts defenders on their heels. Dempsey makes them think! And now there’s Gio who does all that but more elegantly.

However, in youth soccer, perhaps the focus is too much on two touch soccer. Does it create players who don’t know how to dribble or are scared to make a mistake when trying things?

Or there’s kind of rules about only doing certain tricks or moves in the attack, away from danger. Clearly you don’t want players to try to nutmeg defenders every chance they get. But I think you do want players to go at defenders on the dribble. And charging forward when there’s space. Playing like Gio.

Someone who hopefully can show his skills off even more is Jack Grealish. He had a tremendous year for Manchester City. He’s a special player though. Someone who often makes defenders look foolish. He’s often hacked down by defenders before he gets going. Or they tear at his jersey. For City, Grealish draws defenders in when he goes on a solo runs down the line.

A while back it was the Nike ginga that was all the craze. Maybe more as a marketing plan in one sense – but it worked! It is all about ginga. It is all about showing off your soccer skills.

The idea of showing off in soccer also reminds me of those beloved long or mazy dribbling runs in the World Cup. We should see more of those. It is what makes the game beautiful and fun to watch. Let’s see more of these dribbling runs on a weekly basis in league play throughout the world. Let’s see more players showing off their soccer skills.

I’m looking forward to seeing Gio Reyna go on more dribbling runs. I’m looking forward to seeing Gio show off a little without even meaning to.