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Debunking Soccer, Volume 1: "World Class"

The first in a series, hopefully.

This came up when I searched for "World Class". Tells you all you need to know about the phrase, really.
This came up when I searched for "World Class". Tells you all you need to know about the phrase, really.
Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images

One of the things I have always hated in journalism - not just sports journalism, but all journalism - is laziness. Laziness in thought, of course, but also laziness in writing. The two are often interrelated, but generally laziness in writing bugs me more, because a lot of times some good information is buried underneath some godawful writing.

Then, of course, there's the other side of "lazy writing" - the meaningless cliche. Sports, of course, has a billion of these, and I'm here today to hopefully destroy one of them. I may make this into a series, I haven't really decided yet, but today, on the Lazy Writing Chopping Block, we welcome our first guest:


Yes, that's right, World Class. Of all the lazy cliches in soccer writing, this may be the single laziest. Why do I hate it so much? Well, let's go down the list, shall we? There's two main reasons I can think of right away...

1. It literally means nothing. It means that a thing is of a class called "world", which is what we all are - people, desk chairs, doors, carpet, slugs. We're all world class, because we're all in the world and we can all be classified.

2. If something is "world class", then by definition, what is that which is not "world class"? Classless? Terrible? Merely good?

3. Even if you stretch "world class" to mean "the best of a certain type of thing", which is what most people do in this context, it's still completely meaningless.

Why is it meaningless? Because everyone who uses the phrase "world class" to define, in this instance, a soccer player has their own unique definition of what "world class" is. There's endless, pointless debates going on right now about who is or is not "world class" all over the soccer part of the Internet; I am far, far less interested in arriving at a settled definition of "world class" than I am in destroying the term entirely.

"But Paul!" you're probably not saying to yourself right now. "How will I ever be able to separate out the good players from the bad?" Well, easily! Just use more descriptive words! Words that actually mean something in context!

For instance, as far as strikers go, the term "world class" is usually used to describe the Messi/Ronaldo level of player, or sometimes also the Suarez/Ibrahimovic level. See what I did there? In just one sentence, we're already unsure what "world class" means! Why use it at all? Why not just say "one of the best strikers in the world" about the five to ten players that can wear that tag at any given time and be done with it?

And you can do this for any player at any position, too - not just strikers. There's no need to try to convince someone that "world class" is a thing - it isn't! There's also no real need to develop a taxonomy - there's "the best strikers in the world", and then there's the rest of them.

So, when Arsenal are invariably linked this summer to any number of players, don't fall into either the trap of believing someone who says "(x) is World Class" or the one that says "Arsenal have to buy a World Class player this summer", because neither is actually true. Arsenal need to buy good players; Arsenal tend to buy good players.

Labels are irrelevant, so don't let yourself get seduced by them.