culture football

Nike's 'Last Game' a Welcome Revelation

5:54 PMGoalChatter

by Aleks V

A 5-minute film on football with a trailer that aired all throughout the 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament sets some pretty high expectations. Yet Nike manages to go above and beyond. The Last Game is a rather unexpected parable from Nike, featuring some of the world's best former and current players, like France's Franck Ribery, the USA's Tim Howard and England's Wayne Rooney, who are rounded up by the Brazilian Ronaldo in an all-star team to face their own clones in a sudden-death, winner-take-all match. Should the clones triumph, their real counterparts will quit football forever.

Although the clones are all decked out in a dull gray kit that emphasizes their generic nature, lets not forget they're duplicates of Zlatan and Rooney and Iniesta. Alas, there are no stars among the clones, and no way to distinguish each individual player's style from the other. They are like photocopies, twice removed from the original images they aim to represent. The implication, however, is that there are real teams that operate in much the same, "fail-proof" way as the clones. If not for the system they're a part of, each of those players would be individuals, and - who knows? - maybe even stars.

Paul Gardner writes on the rise of the defense-oriented game leading up to the 1990's that not only made for more boring football, but led to the widespread use of dangerous tackles and "tactical fouls". The aim switched from winning to 'not losing', the emphasis on not allowing goals rather than scoring them. The Last Game epitomizes the modern mentality of football, owing in no small part to the mostly business-centered approach that the sport, like so many others, has gradually taken on. There's a hint that the basketball world may be guilty of this, too, with the film's mention of a "Perfect LeBron". Yet part of The Last Game's irony is that despite a seemingly perfectly-engineered team, attendance is down. Nobody is interested in predictable results.

The open, risk-taking, creative game derives from street soccer, presented in the opening scene of the film. And indeed, some of the world's best players come from the streets. In the end, it is the humans who triumph over an ironically-named Perfect Inc. team of clones.

The All-Star team represents that which is so rarely found today - a human, rather than a money-oriented approach, one which entails more risks but likewise more rewards, and whose beauty embodies all the good the game has stood for since its founding in the late 19th century.

It seems that the age of impersonal commerce is endless. Yet history's cyclical nature means there will soon be a return to a more open game, one that is guided more by artful skill than financial ambitions. In fact, the days of old we so long for may already be upon us.

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