Hantam bola, Guardiola

·5-min read
Manchester City players celebrating their second goal with manager Pep Guardiola.
Manchester City players celebrating their second goal with manager Pep Guardiola. (PHOTO: Pool via Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay)

I don’t know about you, but I always need someone or some team to root for in football. It just makes watching the sport more interesting, no?

Take the World Cup for example. We Singaporeans will probably never get to root for our country past the qualifiers, so many of us end up picking a foreign team to support.

It’s kind of like the old school game of hantam bola. You just need to throw your support behind someone.

And with Liverpool failing to defend their league title and crashing out of the Champions League, I must confess that I will now be throwing my ball of support to the gaffer of another English club that is in the running to become champions of Europe.

No, not Thomas Tuchel.

I’m talking about Pep Guardiola.

I have a confession to make. I’m a big fan of the Spaniard.

The first time I learned of this guy was - don’t laugh - through Winning Eleven on the Playstation 2.

“What an interesting name,” I thought. It helped that his character had pretty good stats. This compelled me to watch him play in real life, and boy was I blown away. There was just this grace in the way he played. Though he wasn’t blessed with pace (Johan Cruyff once went all SAF platoon sergeant and described Guardiola as being “slower than my granny”), the man’s reading of the game was impeccable.

I was such a fan that I swear I had at some point transferred him to my Liverpool team in the game. He definitely made for a better midfielder than the likes of Oyvind Leonhardsen, Paul Ince and Michael Thomas. Nah, I wasn’t a big fan of Jamie Redknapp either.

As it turned out, Guardiola is an even better manager. He’s already won 30 trophies during his managerial days at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City, and could very well win another four trophies this season.

Admittedly, I was once among the legion of football fans who attributed his shining credentials to the fact that he’s always had a world-class team to work with.

Aiyah, how can you suck when you have Messi in the team?” would be a common refrain.

Well, that isn’t exactly true. You still require someone competent enough to steer such an outfit. Putting a taxi driver behind the wheel of the Ferrari SF 21 isn’t going to win the team anything. It takes skill to manage a team of superstars, just like it takes skill to control a Formula 1 car.

Also, it isn’t exactly his fault that he always has the funds to buy top players. I mean, he’s always been managing top teams with deep pockets. Surely, we can’t expect him to spend a fraction of his generous transfer funds just to prove the point that he can work with unknown players from obscure leagues?

Can he achieve similar success with smaller teams? We will never know until he does. Besides, what are the chances of him taking over a smaller team?

I don’t think he needs to guide the likes of King's Lynn Town F.C. and bring them to the Premier League to show that he’s among the best managers in the world.

Leave that to the Championship Manager geeks.

He already is one of the best. And I love the fact that he’s been so humble about his success.

Last year, he claimed that his impressive resume would not have been possible if not for the fact that he has had the privilege to work with some of the best players in the world.

"I never felt like I am the best manager [in the world]," he said in a media interview. "Even when I won six titles in a row and trebles. Never felt that. I won because I had extraordinary players at big clubs. The incredible managers don't have these players. They don't have these clubs. I'm a good manager, but not the best. Give me a team not like Manchester City and I'm not going to win."

You also have to give him credit for the work he has put in to develop players. As much as I detest Raheem Sterling for the way he turned his back on Liverpool, I must admit that he has grown into quite the footballer under Guardiola. Then you have other players like Fernandinho and Kevin de Bruyne, who have made remarkable transformations since joining City.

Yeah, they were already great players when they joined. But they’re now world class.

Next, you surely have to agree with me when I say that Man City plays good football, unlike their neighbours in red. Again, good football isn’t a direct result of good players. It’s a result of immaculate backroom planning and heart-pumping motivational speeches. You’d know what I’m talking about if you watched the documentary All or Nothing: Manchester City.

His eccentricity and passion for the game is infectious. If Guardiola was my Commanding Officer in a war, I’d happily take a bullet for him.

And how can you not love his turtleneck sweaters?

So, seeing how he has never won the Champions League with Man City, I’m very much rooting for him to bring that trophy back to England.

I’m hardly the only one who thinks Guardiola is worth rooting for. David Moyes does, too. In fact, he even once labelled him as the “Heston Blumenthal of football” (Blumenthal is a renowned British chef known for his innovative cuisine).

Speaking of Moyes, I think he’s a good example of how it takes more than a good team to win success. The Man United squad he inherited from Sir Alex Ferguson was top notch.

Come on, you can’t possibly say it wasn’t - it had the likes of Ryan Giggs, Robin van Persie, Nani, Juan Mata and Javier Hernandez.

Last but not least, I’d love to see Guardiola win the Champions League because, hey, that would certainly shut their noisy neighbours up!

This article, "Hantam bola, Guardiola", originally appeared on Football Siao – Singapore’s craziest EPL website.