The header that organizes, classifies, and orders is not the favored footballing organ of a time that prefers passing. The gradually growing hegemony of passes, which rules today, seems to be parallel to the relegation of the header and its sensory world into a vision of the British origins of the game—a vision that separates the U.K. from the rest of spectators (think only, only this weekend, of the repeated woodwork incorporated by Tottenham in their actions, or of Peter Crouch’s architecture of personal space at the Britannia). The header is engaged with non-verbal meanings of the soccer world that are simply lived rather than intellectually understood; sometimes, like here, the header is what divides a pre- and post-history in the derby of Manchester: a momentary threshold with the capacity of bringing us back to enveloping orality.
In his book Orality and Literacy, Walter J. Ong analyses the transition from oral to written culture, and he points out that ‘the shift from oral to written speech was essentially a shift from sound to visual space’. As earlier at Internazionale, Roberto Mancini has been instrumental in establishing a framework for memory and understanding, a regime of situational sight-dominance. Vincent Kompany’s goal separates what the senses try to unite. His header did not see first: it heard and smelled, it sniffed the air and caught sounds. And so it goes with the English Premier League, not necessarily a cradle for the eye but a muscular, haptic affair. It is evident that the tournament thrives in the realm of environmental being-in-the-world, and no matter how many bodiless observers will insist on retinal structures and optical corrections, football across the Channel is so steeped in materiality, plasticity and gravity to prevent sensory reductivism. ♦