Given a poor weekend of Westminister Premiership action it is natural for the committed football fan to turn his or her mind to other matters within the beautiful game. A sparse weekend of reportable action is not always an excuse to abandon all cerebral activity and retire to the sofa with a cold cylindrical inhibitor relaxant.
Accordingly, inspiration struck whilst halfway through a German brewed Stella Tortoise that the beautiful game has much in common with the discipline of pure mathematics. In fact there are many key mathematical disciplines that are embedded within the lexicon of the beautiful game and I have made a start in recognising these below.
Playing in triangles – It is a fact that Pythagoras never managed a team within the Premiership, but if he had, then this would have almost certainly been his first choice playing system. A favoured approach for our Spanish cousins in the Cortes Generales La Liga, involving a quick passing game between three revolving and highly mobile players. Most notably perfected by the legendary Olympiacos number eight, Hypot Enuse.
Fractions – The bedrock upon which football is built. There are many examples of the application of the laws of fractionality. Game of two halves, final third, half chance, half time, quarter final, centre half, half a yard offside, half a yard quicker, ratio of shots on target; the list is long and glorious. Within the game we should celebrate fractionalisation and proportionology, as match-day reporting would be impossible without it and ‘game of two playing periods’ sounds far too Bundesliga for my tastes.
Tables and division – Another fundamental part of the game. Governs the use of organisational technical terminology, for example; the table doesn’t lie, top of the table, top four, bottom three, drop a division, three points from safety, top of the table clash, mathematically certain and mid table obscurity. All indispensable in the modern game.
Geometry – The match day study concerned with questions of shape, size, relative position of players, and the properties of space. A footballer who has mastered all of these disciplines is called a Sky Pundit. We are talking about the centre circle, squaring the ball, all square, bisecting the back four, in the box, top corner, relative positioning, the defensive line, diamond formations and zonal play.
Its a numbers game – Where would we be without numbers to guide and control us within the beautiful game? Can you imagine a Talksport radio commentary without a second bookable offence, a six pointer, the double/treble/quadruple, cheeky one-twos, a critical three points from safety, a defence at sixes and sevens, eighteen yard boxes, false nines, strikers that are quick over five yards or being two games away from the final in Munich? No, neither can I, and all things being equal, we have to remember that at the end of the day the numbers don’t lie.
Time gentlemen please – It is a well established principle amongst mathematical physicists that the laws of the referees timepiece fall outside of Minkowski’s four dimensional manifold model. Only Association rules apply at 3pm on Saturday (SKY schedule allowing, check website for updates before travelling) where the concepts of extra time, ninety minutes to save a season, injury time, the six second keeper rule, slow motion ball boys, the referees watch, the Barcelona five second principle, the arcane mysteries of the fourth official’s board and the officialistic continuity warping of Fergie time are all constants within the one universal equation that the Large Hadron Collider has yet to find an answer for. Only the very best Punditologist can hope to transcend the shackles of regular space and time and truly reach enlightenment, as highlighted by this recent transcript from Monday Night Football.
GN: “Do not try and bend the ball around the wall. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realise the truth.”
JC: “What truth?”
GN: “There is no ball.”
JC: “There is no ball?”
GN: “Then you’ll see, that it is not the ball that bends, it is only yourself.”
JC: “Mate, that is some deep mojo.”
GN: “Sorry, did I say ball, I meant burglar.”