The "World Class" Debate

  • There’s got to be some rules here folks.

I’m a fan of lists. If you can rank it, categorize it, number it, subdivide it, label it, then I’m usually interested. Every December I rank the top ten albums of that particular year and I’m constantly trying to re-work, re-figure and re-align my top ten films of all time, a project that’s been ongoing now for the better half of a decade. If a film, past or present impresses me all the way through, if the music is relevant, if the screenplay is flawless, it’s a masterpiece. If it’s current, it’s a modern day masterpiece. Why do I do this? Why can’t I just enjoy the art in front of me? Is the football fan that different?

In my attempts to compile a list of all time great footballers, I hit a snag when I came across the phrase “world class”. The phrase seems to come up all across the Internet, on blogs, message boards and especially basement run websites. Let’s be honest, the phrase itself  is at times a silly one. On one hand, I like it. It simply allows football supporters to place the cream of the crop on one clean pedestal, done and dusted. There’s really no higher individual honor a player can receive, except if it’s from FIFA, UEFA, etc., than to labeled world class. The greatest player of your decade, slap-world class, led your club team to the Premier League title, slap-world class, scored a stunner in the FA Cup Final, slap-world class.

On the other hand, it’s a bit silly. Football supporters are a fickle bunch who tend to throw accolades and labels around quite frequently and loosely.We all get so caught up in the here and now. What’s been accomplished just a few weeks ago is now a fleeting memory in our minds because we want more great performances, more wins, more goals, and we want it now! This keeping up with the Joneses mentality allows football supporters the sad characteristic of selfish, forgetful support. It’s the flavor of the week if you will, the absolute be all and end all. One week world class, the next week rubbish. If we continue at this rate, all the world class tags will surely be assigned, passed out and exhausted before we see Kai Rooney lace up for Manchester United’s 2028 Global Premier League match played v Chelsea on the moon.

One website I found went so far as to list Robinho and Park Ji-Sung as world class. Now don’t get me wrong, both players are fine in their own right. Park for United fits perfectly into the position that Alex Ferguson plays him in, when he actually plays, which isn’t that frequently. Park’s role for United usually beckons a Champions League tie or clash against another Big 4 opponent. As for Robinho, the quick Brazilian is a fine player when he wants to be, but shouldn’t “world class” be reserved for the upper echelon of footballing talent? Would not world class players usually be playing in the world’s best league? Or at least in Europe?

In Robinho’s attempt to make the Brazilian World Cup squad this summer, he’s pissed off back to former club Santos who sit 12th in the Brasileirao. My point here is that slapping world class tags on every player who comes along doesn’t make them deserved of such accolades. Remember, Robinho has made this move in hopes he’ll be picked for the World Cup. Would not a world class player’s name be first on the team sheet for his country regardless of how deep the country’s talent pool is? Shame on that website for throwing a world class tag to Robinho.

A truly world class talent could fit into almost any system put in front of them and excel. Their ability to adapt when different situations presented themselves and subsequently succeed in their new environment should be a deciding factor in who’s deemed world class or simply talented. Again, shouldn’t the term world class be reserved for the upper echelon of footballing talent and not be thrown around like some flavor of the week?

If you answered yes to that last question, then we must first decide the criteria that makes up a truly world class athlete as to not dilute the world football platform with every Robinho and Park that comes along. No matter how great they are, they are not world class, at least not yet. As football fans, we must cherish and hold our best accolades for the one in a million who comes along once in a lifetime. So for now, let’s hold our world class tongues until at least after the World Cup.

I’m not the be all and end all of which footballers get the distinct privilege and tag of being world class. I’m not that powerful, don’t want the responsibility and I’m still relatively young in my footballing life. I’ve got a lot to learn and vow to do just that, but I do believe we should wait until a player has reached the end, or near the end of their career before the world class tag is assigned. Let’s take for instance one Fernando Torres. Incredible talent, dangerous striking abilities, strong, fast, he’s got it all. But he’s bloody injured more than he’s on the pitch. How world class is he if he never plays? Will he still be considered world class if he fights injuries the remainder of his career? Would not the phrase “potential world class abilities” be more appropriate until we’ve seen the young Spaniard at his best for both club and country?

Ryan Giggs. Is he or isn’t he? The Manchester United winger has won everything possible at club level and remains one of the Premier League’s best, but the Welsh national team has failed to qualify for a  World Cup since 1958, or competed in a European Championship since 1976. Giggs would easily get my vote for world class, but what of the player who never gets his chance to prove how world class he is on an International stage? Should this be taken into consideration?

Whatever your opinion on the matter is, it’s ultimately just a phrase. Take it or leave it, love it or hate it. My advice to you though would be to not throw it around so easily and award it to the footballer who has most recently impressed you. Let players be players and fans be fans and we’ll all together, at the end of a truly great career, sit down and heap praise upon those so deserving of a fickle football supporters words of acclaim.

Shirt credit: Objectivo


  1. Brian February 15, 2010
  2. Jim February 15, 2010
  3. coachie February 15, 2010
  4. Nnanna February 15, 2010
  5. Daniel February 16, 2010
  6. The Three Lions February 16, 2010
    • Jesse February 16, 2010
  7. DaveyG November 12, 2010

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