“I had to score. I had the feeling that I would score the winning goal”
Even the best players are (apparently) subject to the power of destiny, narrative, fate, belief.
The quote above comes from Ronaldo after the 2016 Champions league final, where he scored the fifth of Madrid’s penalties to break the hearts of Atlético.
A penalty, incidentally, that prolonged the same club’s curse of always falling at the final Champions League hurdle.
You see, everywhere you look in football there is destiny, narrative, fate, belief at work.
We can split these into fields of influence. For example:
- In-game truisms: e.g. the inevitability of the ex-player scoring on his return
- Personal destiny: e.g. “the manager told me I’d score when he put me on”
- Club-based traditional narratives: e.g. Liverpool’s European turnarounds
- Wider narratives: e.g. Sevilla’s pursuit of three Europa Leagues in a row (a narrative that was so strong it beat the Liverpool one in 2016)
Most people treat these forces as irresistible, and of course the more people that think like this, the more irresistible they become. But keen students of “what football is all about” instead ask how managers, players or fans can enhance the power of destiny, narrative, fate and belief for their team. And, perhaps more interestingly, how they might combat the apparent power of these forces when they work against them.
This is the Moirai-Zeus conflict.
The Moirai were the Greek Fates, the incarnation of destiny – determining the thread that each life would follow, inevitably and without hope of changing that destiny. Some scholars believe only Zeus was able to challenge the Fates and twist destiny to his own purpose.
So this is the conflict players, managers, clubs and fans must manage. To give in to the destiny set out by fate or to become master of your own future. To be the away team at Anfield on a “great European night” and not to concede the tie-winning goal in the dying seconds. Or, if you’re Liverpool, to ensure the opponents are paralysed by narrative, by an understanding that they cannot, will not, should not challenge the inevitability of the comeback.
Chasing destiny, defining new destinies and defeating destiny on the football pitch – these are the topics we’ll cover here. And there’s nothing you can do about it.