Few may remember the long bygone era when watching a football match required going to a stadium, but times are ever changing and for some even watching a full game on telly feels slightly anachronistic. After all, why waste all that time staring at a screen nothing much is happening on, when you can go on Youtube and watch a plethora of short video clips (of varying production quality) that have all the action without the boring bits? At first these clips may seem dazzlingly random and arbitrary but there are distinct and recognisable genres.
Match highlights is the oldest and most traditional genre of all. In fact it isn’t even one genre, as there are the 30-60 minute long highlights, which is basically the entire match with stoppages edited out, then there are medium length highlights, these are slightly trickier to edit down to 1ö-15 minutes, but our focus is now on short highlights, featuring 3-5 minutes of action, maybe 6 if there was a goal fest.
Short highlights are notoriously hard to get right, it requires talent and experience. The main challenge being that if you only include incidents that end in goals, the result will contain as much dramatic tension as when you see a mechanic turn up to fix the washing machine in a porn movie. We all know that in real life not all washing machine repairs end in anal intercourse (heck, most of the time your washing machine isn’t even fixed), we still have no doubts about the outcome when we see it happening on screen.
Some narrative has to be constructed then out of 10-15 well-chosen incidents – short highlights are definitely artificial constructions, which on a good day re-create a similar overall experience as the match itself. Heroes, villains, turning points and conflicts need to be created, a tough job even if you weren’t further constrained by a pre-recorded match footage. That’s why you won’t find many home-made short highlights on the internet, but the better professional pieces that you do find, deserve some admiration.
Goal compilations are much more of a mixed bag, with them concentrating solely on the goals of a single player or team. I wouldn’t even try to extend the porn analogy to this genre, let us contend with the observation that goal compilations don’t even attempt to capture the feel and the rhythm of a football match. Yes, the rhythm, dictated not by the slow-mo footage we see but the thumping mid-tempo two-four time soundtrack.
In the world of the goal compilation there’s no room for the natural ebb and flow of football, everything has to be bombastic, mechanised, following the robotic tic-toc-tic-toc of the music.
Just how much power the backing music wields can be seen by comparing the video above to an example of the emerging scene of goal compilations set to classical music, like this truly wonderful piece highlighting the artistic skill of Matt Le Tissier.
Out of all the football clip genres this is probably the most recent and also the weirdest. What happens here is the total deconstruction of football: watch all the touches of a single player, and only that. Although it is very tempting to ascribe this to deliberate post-modernism, the probable explanation is more prosaic: Football Manager. FM is a perfectly fine and enjoyable computer game, but it can create the false impression that players are nothing more than a collection of abilities, skills and stats, all expressed in precise numbers. A team in turn consists of X number of players, and a set of meticulously crafted formations and training regimes.
Watching them in this context touch videos are bleak and deeply saddening: what you see isn’t just your ordinary cult of the hero – that’s been part of football since the earliest days –, it is a total denial of the concept of team.
Fuck knows, maybe it is all random after all.