Tiki-Taka and the Rise and Fall of Ideology

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This post will go slightly off topic from what I usually write about, but its relevance will soon become clear. This is a post about one of my Aspie obsessions, football. That’s “soccer” for all the Yanks, Mounties, Aussies, Kiwis, Bafana Bafanas and other silly people out there.

I am going to analyse the rise and fall of “tiki-taka,” the unique, stylish, innovative, entertaining, seemingly unbeatable style of playing football invented chiefly by Pep Guardiola during his tenure at Spanish club FC Barcelona. Tiki-taka is a tactic that places heavy emphasis on patiently keeping possession of the ball, using intricate sequences of short passes to weave the ball around opposing defenders in tight spaces, waiting patiently for the perfect moment to strike, and finally using a quick passing combination to get through on goal. Here is a compilation of some of the best moments of Barcelona tiki-taka:

Initiated by Guardiola when he became manager of the club in 2008, tiki-taka quickly took Spain and Europe by storm. Barcelona won 3 La Ligas, 2 Copa Del Reys, 2 Champions Leagues and 2 FIFA Club World Cups, among other trophies under Guardiola’s reign, which was the era of the peak of tiki-taka. Tiki-taka was unstoppable. No matter how much teams tried, they simply could not steal the ball from Barca! And with creative football geniuses such as Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, and course Lionel Messi on the pitch, goals were always to be found in abundance. It seemed like a team, and a style, that could never be beaten. But eventually it did, starting with Barca’s match against English club Chelsea FC in the 2012 Champions League semi-final. And it kept going downhill from there. Why? Because Pep Guardiola got too dogmatic about tiki-taka. That’s right, this is a story about ideology.

In the 2012 semi-final, Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo employed a tactic notoriously known as “parking the bus.” In this system, all 10 outfield players just stayed back in their own penalty area whenever Barca had the ball, defending as a formidable wall that the Spartans themselves would be envious of. Chelsea made no effort whatsoever to keep possession. They let Barca have all the possession they wanted, but just wouldn’t let them do anything with it. Chelsea could never get the ball, but Barca could never get past the parked bus. But on the rare occasions when they did get the ball, Chelsea had the same strategy every time: counterattack like mad!

Whoever got the ball would immediately do a long pass to one of the forwards, who would be sprinting towards goal at full speed. Three or four attackers would do this, with the intention of making a quick break with 2-3 passes and going straight for goal. And it worked. Chelsea won 3-2 on aggregate over two legs, one played in London and one in Barcelona. Barca did manage 2 goals in the second leg against a 10-man Chelsea, (John Terry got red-carded) but the Blues bounced back. And all three of Chelsea’s goals were scored from parking the bus and counterattacking. You can see the goals from the second match here:

What this match symbolised for me is the futility of ideology. That an ideology, whether it be capitalism, communism, anarchy, totalitarianism, Christianity, Islam or tiki-taka, no matter how perfect and utopian it seems, is always incomplete and doomed to eventually fail. There is always a loophole, an Achilles Heel, to ideology. I mean, I always loved Barcelona’s tiki-taka, despite being a Chelsea fan. (although I am considering switching allegiances to Arsenal given recent events) I thought it was beautiful, artistic and highly entertaining, and I too was a dogmatic believer in it. I thought tiki-taka was invincible. But as with any ideology, sooner or later someone will find a way to break it. Someone will park a bus in front of your ideology and shut it down. The popular bumper sticker “My karma ran over your dogma” springs to mind. Although I would like to get one that says “My bus ran over your tiki-taka!”

So how is this relevant to Aspie Revolution? Well, what are the ideologies keeping us oppressed? Neoliberalism, meritocracy, salesmanship culture, pathologization, the DSM, neurotypical supremacy, and so on. My fellow Aspies, it is time for we as a people to start parking our bus!

Hmm… For an Aspie, I think I made pretty good use of metaphor in this article.

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