Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Moving the goal posts

It's a great pleasure to welcome into the Attic our old friend Jay from who today gives us his take on goal frames, Italian style and Subbuteo (among other things)...

Like most things in my life, I look at goal frames in terms of pre- or post-Italia '90. As much as we can talk about BSB, BSkyB, Murdoch and "the inception of the Premier League" (the second best "inception" of all time... after "Inception") it was the 1990 World Cup in Italy that really moved the goalposts. Because this is an article about goalposts. So I used that metaphor.

Before Italia '90, goals looked to me like they looked in terrible footage of British domestic hooliganism. That is to say, either the goalposts shaped like enlarged P's, with the net draped down at the back of this protrusion, or with a 45° stanchion propping the net up. This was usually with the crowd separated from the pitch by advertising hoardings and/or fences, being mere inches from the byline. This look didn't work for me.

And so to Italy. I say this piece is about goal frames I have loved, but this is really the anti-goal frame goal frame. This is minimalism in goal frame form. In Italy the stadia - the like of which I didn't even realise existed - had a running track and acres of room behinds the goals! The fans were miles back, in some kind of Colosseum-aping divide between the entertainment and the paying public - which would surely call for sociological analysis if I had the time, inclination or requisite education to tackle it - and the nets... oh, the nets...

Roughly 500 yards back from the byline were two further posts - detached stanchions, should your imagination allow - and nylon cords ran from the upper corners of the nets, to these posts, securing the goal nets in a position of both statuesque poseurly confidence and louche malleability. The goal nets were the focal point of the pitch, given enough room to breathe and beckon the ball into their yawning chasms, but also sprung tightly enough to repel the strike should it evade a goalkeeper's reach.

And this is why I loved them so much. Because a ball shouldn't ever "nestle in the net". For one thing, "nestle" looks like "Nestlé", and we really don't have time to go into that, but mainly because when a great goal is scored, the ball shouldn't hit the net before its entirety has even crossed the line and retire to some dark corner in front of an oversized Draper Tools logo. Rather it should whip its way around the mesh, repeatedly bulging it like a foetus lashing out at its mother before rolling out, back into the active area and winking at the shattered and grounded goalkeeper that notices its reappearance in his peripheral vision.

Italia '90 did this, 501 Great Goals did not. Seriously, if you've ever watched that video you'll know it feels like at least 251 of them are penalties and the rest are tap-ins by Kerry Dixon. They all involved nestling. And the advertising hoardings are so close to the pitch that if Peter Shilton had staggered and fallen backwards over the goal-line as an Andy Brehme deflected free-kick looped over his head in a Barclays League Division One game in 1988 rather than in the Stadio delle Alpi in Turin, it would have seen him decapitated.

In 1990, I asked for "square goal nets" for Christmas, as the closest thing that Subbuteo did to the Italia '90 versions. As I was opening my gift, my grandfather (he's been dead for 17 years - THAT's football nostalgia) pointed out, in partial apologetic apprehension and, I suspect, with an undertone of pedantry, that he couldn't find any "square" goal nets, and these were the best he could do. They were exactly what I wanted, they were perfect and, post Italia '90, my views on football had changed. Bring on the inceptions...

Our grateful thanks to Jay, who not only manages Design Football brilliantly but also does a sterling job documenting the world around him at Well worth checking out if you can!

Jay can also be found on Twitter so follow him and have your life enriched by talk of football and many other things besides...

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