Sunday, November 20, 2011

Footballers on the Dancefloor: from Hollywood to Bollywood, Solo, Savage and God Himself

I'm in denial. Hope Solo was voted off Dancing with the Stars. She and Maksim were ROBBED by the judges. The Argentine Tango is a perfect framework for the two strong and combative personalities. Their performance was interesting, ambitious and fun to watch.  Nevertheless, Solo and Maksim were given quite low scores. (Their Paso Doble was awesome from a head-banger's perspective but perhaps not so ballroom. Their Cha Cha was OK, but in the "relay" format you can really see the qualitative difference between Martinez, Lake and the rest (how Kardashian won that segment is beyond my understanding). Anyway, here's the Tango:

Bravo to Solo for bringing it.

This seems like a good moment to survey performances by a few other footballers. For example, Robbie Savage is on this season's Strictly Come Dancing

That performance needs no comment from me. Bless him.

Diligent readers of FaLW will know that I'm a fan of Baichung Bhutia, who won India's Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa in 2009. Bhutia played for Kolkata clubs Mohun Bagan and East Bengal - two of the most stories clubs in Asia. His career has largely been built around long-term ambitions for soccer in India, and he is one of the founders of the country's first player's union. Without a doubt, he participated in India's version of Dancing with the Stars in order to raise awareness of Indian soccer. Nevertheless, Mohun Bagan questioned his commitment to the sport when his succesful run on the dance show caused him to miss a practice and exhibition match. The club took a ridiculous, short-sighted stand and Bhutia left them for East Bengal.

He retired from play this year, but owns United Sikkim and is a key figure for the future of the sport in Asia. Bhutia's the kind of person many of us would love to see head FIFA. The guy has a soul. And that shows in all of his performances. (Jhalak Dikkhla Jaa is fun to watch because the dances are hybrids - part ballroom, part Bollywood. They are very theatrical and often quite athletic.) 

The most fascinating turn in this genre comes from Italy's Ballando con le Stelle. God himself appeared on its dance floor in 2005. He withdrew from the show after four weeks - he'd been flying back and forth between Buenos Aires and Italy, shortly after undergoing surgery to control his weight problems. Around this time, however, Italian tax authorities tried to collect his earnings from the program, in order to cover debt dating back to his days as a player. I'm grateful for the three weeks he gave us - everytime I watch this, my brain goes: "No, is that" And then it short circuits.

If you need more after that, I recommend Bleacher Report's survey of footballers who should be on DWTS. Given that this Bleacher Report researcher confined herself to the men's game, she missed one, most obvious candidate. For of all the dancing footballers surveyed by Bleacher Report, none actually incorporate dance into their play. For them, it's a post-goal scoring celebration. For Marta Vieira da Silva, the samba is a cruel taunt embedded into play - an announcement of her opponent's imminent humiliation (see, especially the move that starts around min 3:35):

Hope Solo would be the first to observe, however, that had she been in goal in 2007, Marta would have had much less to Samba about.

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