Mapping the Pitch
Mapping the Pitch
Dedicated to Jimmy Hogan
'HE USED TO SAY FOOTBALL WAS LIKE A VIENNESE WALTZ, A RHAPSODY. ONE-TWO-THREE, ONE-TWO-THREE, PASS-MOVE-PASS, PASS-MOVE-PASS. WE WERE SAT THERE, GLUED TO OUR SEATS, BECAUSE WE WERE SO KEEN TO LEARN.'
The Romans were, of course, famous for the military formation known as the Testudo, or Tortoise, one that Giovanni Trapattoni, a master of organisation and discipline, would have been proud to call his own.
Football, like so many things in life, beloved or not, was invented by the English.
Alas, also like so many things in life, it almost certainly wasn't. What they did do for the game was burden it with its very first set of rules and regulations, applying bureaucracy to a game in much the same way they had done to the countries in their Empire.
Countries, cultures and societies that exercise a claim to inventing the world's greatest game (probably) and its second greatest obsession (possibly) are numerous. A game that involved using the feet in kicking, and propelling an object of sorts has certainly been recorded in both Ancient Greek and Roman history, with the Roman version, known as hapastum thought to have been a bastardised variant of the even earlier Greek version. Who knows, perhaps the Romans, style and form ever to the forefront even on the battlefield, included the first on-field trequartista in their noble ranks - an early Andrea Pirlo, resplendent in toga and sandals?
The Romans were, of course, famous for the military formation known as the Testudo , or Tortoise, one that Giovanni Trapattoni, a master of organisation and discipline, would have been proud to call his own. Testudo involved a group of around 36 Roman legionaries advancing into battle in such a manner that they were completely protected by their shields. The soldiers at the front held their shields in front of them whilst those at the sides held them outwards and those in the middle of the advancing rectangle would hold their shields over their heads. The result of this was effectively a mobile metal box that contained all of the men safely within its protective confines.
Not particularly pretty, not particularly fast or exciting, but very effective. Italian pragmatism in the mould of some of their national football teams. Nobody can say they weren't forewarned. And, as far as any and all opposing armies were concerned, they couldn't say they weren't warned. Because it's what the Romans did. In every battle. Time and time again. Predictable? Yes. Effective? Certainly. They had a battle plan, and by Mars, they were going to use it.
After all, once you've found a battle plan that works, you're hardly going to deviate for as long as remains the case.
Thus, on rather more literal fields of physical combat, the leaders of fighting men continue to redefine warfare. Rome had, with its highly trained soldiers and tightly disciplined Testudo, turned the art of battle into a science. Long gone were the days when hordes of fighting men and women would simply form into two large and unorganised groups and simply run into one another, pell-mell, a blur of axes, swords and assorted blunt instruments with no one really sure of what they are doing or who they are bludgeoning to death. It was bloody anarchy.
Rome helped change all that.
People raved about Testudo. It was the tiki-taka of its day, reliant on close movement and finding space in the most effective manner. Cassius Dio, a 1st century Roman consul, historian and forerunner of the modern day studio pundit ('Well Cassius, the ancient Britons are getting a mauling in this battle, can you see any way back into it for them?') followed the campaign of Roman general Marc Antony, a ver