What many people believe...

England v Rest of the World 1963

One of the reasons I kicked off this blog with a photograph of Mane Garrincha is because many people believe he was the greatest player ever... the key phrase here is many people believe. The late Sergei Melville (writing under the nome de plume Joao Kartoshka) put it in a nutshell with his 'regarding football there is no right or wrong, only opinion'.
We can never definitively select the greatest footballer ever, we can never decide which was the greatest team, we can never pick the ultimate XI. We will never tire of speculating, debating and arguing these points , championing our favourites and the ideals that they embody. This is a good thing, a great thing. It makes people happy. And yet how many of the opinions, how much of what many people believe is in fact an expression of their own opinions, drawn from their own experiences? How much is received wisdom? A great deal, I would argue.

Pelé played his last game 37 years ago. Maradona 16 years ago, and yet people continue to debate which was the greatest of the 2. People who maybe never saw, even on TV,  a game in which they played- the whole 90 minutes. Lev Yashin is still often cited as the greatest goalkeeper of all time- what evidence do we have? The opinions of others handed down, snippets of film seen out of context.
These were great players, skillful to a degree that marked them apart from their contemporaries. Being men, they had other qualities as well, qualities that could endear them to people, or make them unpopular.
This blog will never attempt to answer the unanswerable- who was the greatest player, team etc. We'll just look at some great players, some not so great players, some famous teams, achievers and underachievers, and we'll have some fun along the way. I hope it will make us happy. Most of all though, we have to question the received wisdom, we have to challenge what many people believe. I sincerely wish that I had seen Mane Garrincha play. And many others too...