Man United's Antony - admirable or arrogant?

Antony has been accused of "showboating"

Dan Balliston
21st November 2022
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Why is football called the ‘beautiful game’? There are countless examples and explanations that have given this great game its nickname.

Diego Maradona, Pele, and Lionel Messi all are players that have made an entire population understand and appreciate this sport with their wonderful flair and mesmeric ability. Fans around the world cherish moments of pure genius and obscenity, so why has showboating in football gained such a negative reputation and is it good for the game?

Manchester United and Brazilian international, Antony, has received criticism from ex-players, pundits, and fans after producing his trademark 360-degree skill move before then overhitting a pass out of play. The score, in a decisive Europa League match for United, was 0-0 at the time. The Brazilian was unmarked and had numerous players to pass to, yet he performed this piece of trickery that is normally witnessed in tight areas, or when necessary, to keep the ball.

The timing of the move surprised the Old Trafford crowd and in turn led to a collective sound of frustration that unsettled the dynamic between fans and players throughout the remainder of the first half. United manager, Erik Ten-Haag, subsequently substituted Antony at half-time and the team went on to win the game 3-0 in the second half. Amidst the reaction to the score itself, football fans were left questioning whether Antony’s trick in the first half was the sort of moment that should be encouraged in football, or whether the Brazilian was disrespecting his opponents and integrity of the professional game.

Neymar Jr and Richarlison, Brazil teammates of Antony, have also been subject to negative media surrounding their acts of showboating this season. Brazil has for decades been the home to mesmeric football. Garrincha, Pele and Kaka have all possessed skill that mere mortals of the game could only dream about, yet have the current crop of Brazilian stars taken this too far? We watch the game for entertainment and excitement, not defensive formations, and anti-football tactics, however, is there a time and place for such trickery and could current players be more intelligent in picking their moments to produce audacious skill?

The distinguishment between genuine skill and showboating can also sometimes be blurred. Beating a player for pace or a nutmeg is applauded by fans and experts every time. What is the difference between that and producing a more uncommon way to take on an opponent? It is a question that simply cannot be answered in short. Position on the pitch, situation of the game and the pressure on the player will always be variables that determine whether showboating is just eccentric skill, or arrogance and disrespect towards a fellow professional.

Ultimately, Antony’s actions did not lead to the concession of a goal, nor did it affect the outcome of the match. Therefore, can this be put down to just a young Brazilian expressing himself at the highest level? That question has been asked before, and usually, that young Brazilian reaches the very top.

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