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Sunday, 12 February 2012

Is the Premier League really the best league in the world?


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  Sqf Heaney

The Premier League is a carefully tuned beast. It is not only a fine example of football (and I do genuinely believe that), but it is also a mass-money producing behemoth that attracts billions of viewers around the four corners of the world. Especially since ‘the day when football began’ back in 1992, as narcissists croak angrily when witnessing the ubiquity of the league and how the old days, often viewed of fondly, are lost to the more pampered styling’s we have in the year of 2011. Yes, England’s top tier is a well-strung out, popular monster, it must be said.

With the style of football we have, where the pace is electric and the teams go at it like ‘blood and thunder’, how couldn’t it be? Unfortunately, as with any slice of pie we have the typical levels of nonsense spewing out. We have pundits and commentators of the game saying ‘this IS the best league in the world’, and I even remember Andy Gray once remarking, ‘sorry, I’m sorry Richard (Keys) but it is the best’.

Well first off Andy, why are you apologising when you obviously feel your opinion was perfectly valid? And secondly, no. This league is not the best league in the world. It isn’t even close to being the best league in the world. And neither is La Liga or the Bundesliga or Serie A. Why? Because no football league is the best in the world. It really is that simple. And that is what is so infuriating about pundits and self-aggrandizing lovers of English football glowering on about this league being the best and whatnot, because it is an entirely subjective debate that has no ultimate, final or conclusive answer.

Take this statement for example: I like the Premier League the most. I’ve tried out Spanish football on many occasions and though I am infatuated with the cauldron of emotion that is El Clasico, and like some aspects of the league, generally I like the English gig more. But that doesn’t mean I will tier it as the absolute super fragilistic-expialadocious best. It’s just what works for me. People that try to find the 'best' league are deluded because it is entirely down to preference, just like trying to find the best band in the world. But why can't people see that instead of disguising their opinion and dressing it up as fact?

Because someone out there in sunny Spain will think the exact opposite about the Premier League. That person will believe it is stupidly chaotic and dislike the influx of foreign players in the country, that person might long for the larger amounts of technical skill and finesse of the Spanish League. Who am I to say that opinion is invalid? And who is the Spanish football fan to say my opinion is invalid? We are nobody. As the endless forum debates about the best league in the world drone on the answer is crystal clear: not one of them is because it isn’t objective, it cannot be proven with fact. It’s just a battle of perfectly valid opinions.

And there may be a gent who only follows the Conference because he likes the smaller surroundings and the physicality and the simplicity (not to be patronising). Who are we to say because the Premier League is of a larger quality, or is pacier, it is better? What are we supposed to measure ‘greatness’ by anyway? It is too diverse. It would be like sharpening stakes and entering a gangland war with Justin Bieber fans because they criticised the Smiths. It’s just what you like and so there is no definitive answer.

It is an unsolvable argument and we should enjoy the fact that it is a unsolvable argument. I know a guy who swears by Spanish and South American football. While I’m used to the English styling’s he cannot drive himself away from the technical, flip-flapping, exquisite touches of those leagues or the intense rivalries in Brazil and Argentina, and in comparison he finds English football boring. That’s the beauty of it: debating why we like each aspect of football yet also at times finding small chunks of other styles of football we can enjoy and appreciate. Why would we want an answer? Why would we want to prove any other league better and only follow that? That’s what makes football, and the world, brilliant.

If everyone just copied English football because ‘it is the best’ then how stale and monotonous would that become?

It’s the arrogance I despise. The arrogance of one person saying this IS the best league and being so narrow-minded as to reject any other differing opinion or viewpoint, and then they look down upon any other league or country that produces some great football and (ha, get this) produces great players which then reproduce the football they were playing in their ‘lesser’ league, for the Premier League and we all bask over it. That last point has been well-documented so I’ve kind of stolen it but it is true: a major factor in the success of our league is foreign imports, bought with foreign cash. So is it ‘our’ league that is the best, Mr Gray?

Don’t let others speak for you when the joy of football is finding new things to love and get in a fuss over. There is simply no joy in confining greatness to one league when there are a host of different football fans in a host of different countries with a host of different leagues, each with their own story to tell and each with their own personal preferences. Take a slice of each because that is what makes football grand – it is universal and unpredictable and varies. But by proclaiming one to be the overall ‘best’ league – doesn’t it just seem such a playground argument? The self-perpetuating nature of the debate is tiresome – so much so that in some ways it turns people off it.

There really isn’t any ultimate answer and neither should there be: if you offer me the pace of the Premier League, I raise you the atmosphere of the Bundesliga. Football is beautifully subjective, mazy and unique – don’t exhibit arrogance and dismiss other leagues, or twist football to conform to one way, to one form of entertainment or to one fashion and, of course, to one ‘best’ league.  It just stinks of narrow-mindedness to me, to brand one league as ‘oh that’s the best, there it is, that’s how we all should do things’. Take and embrace every league as it is because if you don’t, you are only opposing everything our fluctuating game is about.

By all means, follow one league that brings you the most entertainment if you so wish – mine is for all it’s annoyances the Premier League. But open your eyes to a vast world of football outside your favourite league. And don’t do a disservice to other leagues – or a disservice to other fans – by proclaiming your favourite to be the ‘best’ in the world when that title is a purely mythical, infuriating and inherently wrong one to bestow.

Do you agree with Jack? We'd love to hear from you.

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