Every four years there is one sports event which arguably captivates the world more than the Olympics: the FIFA World Cup of soccer (football). This year’s World Cup is being held in Russia, and would the USA have qualified (which it failed to do for the first time since 1986), it would have made for some interesting narrative considering all that has transpired in the last couple of years. Alas this is not the case, so I will be cheering on my adopted land of Japan, the Samurai Blue.
I have been a huge soccer fan since I was a kid. The two main sports I played were basketball and baseball, two “traditional” American sports, but I also enjoyed soccer in the autumn. The year that sealed my love for the sport was 1994, when the US hosted the World Cup. I’ve never looked back since. I didn’t play for my high school team, but I did enjoy playing futsal (type of indoor soccer) with a United Nations-esque mix of students during my university days. Somehow it always ended up being Argentina vs. The World… and The World usually won. I learned a lot of Spanish that never made its way into the text books, too.
Anyway, considering we are now witnessing incredible soccer (football) narrative every day, the folks at Bright Tree Radio and I thought it would be great to come up with our own starting lineups based on beloved characters from the Star Wars universe. This is something we did for fun last summer during one of their Jar Jar’s Jabbering sessions, and so with the World Cup upon us I’ve decide to resurrect the side (team) I put together, but with a few minor tweaks. In soccer you have 10 players plus one keeper, forming what is often called “the starting 11”. There are a number of different formations that can be used based on the players at your disposal and the opposing team, but for the sake of simplicity I’ll go with what is known as a 4-4-2 (four defenders, four midfielders, two forwards), with the midfield arranged in a diamond. So without further adieu, here’s my starting 11 and manager for Far Far Away Football Club.
Keeper (goalie): K2SO
It was hard not to go with Chewbacca, but his tendency to lose his temper (and rip people’s arms out of their sockets) made me opt for K2. He’s a towering presence that could easily punch out any cross or corner kick into his box (goal area). He’s also an astute tactician, and could use the data he accumulates over the course of the game to anticipate attacks by the opposition and bark orders to his defensive line in front of him.
Left back and right back (defense): Jango and Boba Fett
These two players man the flanks, so they need to be capable of covering a lot of ground… bombing forward down the side to provide an outlet for a pass on the attack, and then racing back to head off any counter by the opponent. It’s demanding, requiring a fine balance between offense and defense. In my opinion, the best pairing for these positions would be Jango and Boba Fett. They’re ruthless in the attack, and with their jet packs could cover all that ground in no time. Their versatility and resourcefulness open up an arsenal’s worth of tactically possibilities.
Centerbacks (defense): Chirrut and Baze
The first pairing of center backs that came to mind were Chirrut and Baze. As Guardians of the Whills, manning the defenses comes naturally to them. Baze is the enforcer, the muscle that is quick to nullify any threat in the box with his intimidating physical presence. Chirrut is a master with the ball at his feet, with great anticipation to beat opponents to the spot and strip them of the ball, after which he quickly launches the counter. The unspoken understanding between the two also means they’ll never be caught out of position.
Defensive midfielder: Leia Organa (Skywalker)
The defensive midfielder (DM) is the rock of the team, much in the same way that Leia has been the rock of the Rebellion and now the Resistance. The DM needs to be able to cover the defenses and link up with the attack, and Leia’s perception and strong will make her perfectly suited for the task. Her natural leadership abilities makes her the team captain, able to keep both the attack and defense on the same page as well as smooth out tensions in the squad.
Left midfielder: Jyn Erso
Jyn possesses the tenacity that all managers would love to have on their side. She never shirks away from a challenge, and would be a formidable force in counter-pressing to win the ball back and do a quick 1-2 pass to set the counter attack in motion. Her prowess with a blaster also leads me to believe she would be a great free kick and corner kick taker.
Right midfielder: Rey
Rey brings all the qualities of a class footballer to the table. She has great vision and anticipation, and like Jyn she exhibits a punishing tenacity that would make the opposition think twice about storming down her side. The Force qualities would help anticipate the offside trap so she could better time her runs behind defenders to create an outlet for a pass and then whip a mean cross into the box for one of the strikers to bury home.
Attacking midfielder: Ahsoka Tano (Fulcrum version)
The Fulcrum version of Ahsoka exudes a maturity and calmness that is vital to any concerted attack. She never buckles under pressure, and possesses the leadership qualities to work well with her midfielders and provide the conduit for unleashing the attack on the opposition’s box. The Jedi training in her also helps her to see things before they happen, beating her opponents to the spot and bringing their attack to a screeching halt. The Inquisitors are all too familiar with this facet of her game.
Right forward: Darth Vader
A word that is often used to describe strikers (at least in UK media) is “clinical”, and Darth Vader is the personification of this term. His incredible level of skill means that no one would be getting him off the ball, meaning that he would mow through defenders with the ease that he finished off the Rebel troopers in the hallway of that Corellian Corvette. Vader’s Force push would also prove a valuable tool in creating space for other attackers to run into and lay off a pass. The only thing he needs to worry about is trying to chest the ball down… That could damage his breathing system controls.
Left forward: Han Solo
In addition to the clinical striker, there is the cocky, self-assured striker who always seems to be in the right place at the right time, waiting to pounce on the loose change and bury the ball into the back of the net. The odds of breaking down a defense are something that would never deter Han, and his prowess with a blaster means that he could pick his spots well when launching a strike on goal. He’d demand to take any penalty kick, and his experience as a smuggler would provide him with the insight he needs to skirt the referee’s attention and get away with some smart fouls in the box.
Defenders: Captain Rex and Fives
These two work incredibly well together and possess the steely resolve needed to hold the line. Both are great leaders and would keep the defense organized and smother any attack that comes their way. Their inclusion also keeps the Jango bloodline going strong.
Midfielders: Hera Syndulla and Lando Calrissian
I really wanted to put both of these into my starting 11, but had to defer to Leia and Ahsoka. Hera exudes many of the qualities of Leia, and like her she was the rock of the Ghost Crew and Phoenix squad. Her intelligence and ability to see the big picture would enable her to orchestrate the attacks. Lando exudes the suave flair and confidence akin to David Beckham back in the day, but quicker on his feet and with better pace. He’d been amazing impact player in the last 25 minutes of the game.
Forwards: Obi Wan Kenobi (Prequel) and Anakin Skywalker
I nearly deferred to this pairing because they were arguably the best combination of Jedi the galaxy has ever seen. Naturally Anakin would go for the glory and sometimes try too much, but Obi Wan would always be there to reel in that reckless side of his former padawan.
Keeper: Sabine Wren
She may not be the most imposing figure, but there is no doubting her ability to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. That jet pack would come in handy when dealing with crosses or corners into the box.
Manager: Qui Gon Jin
Qui Gon was never made a member of the Jedi Council because of his unorthodox views, but it is this very ability to think outside the box that makes him a perfect choice for manager. Qui Gon shunned the traditional dogma of the Jedi, and I believe he would adopt this same unorthodox approach to his tactics and player management. He has an innate ability to identify the best qualities of each individual and convince them to trust their instincts, such as the time in which he helped settle Anakin’s nerves before the pod race. He can concentrate on the “now” and make the changes necessary during the course of the game to adapt to the situation, but he also has the foresight needed to help build a team that can enjoy enduring success.
That galaxy far, far away has given us a multitude of characters that would put forward a compelling case for inclusion in any fantasy football club. What about you? Would you go with an all Mandalorian team? How about a Sith All Stars cast? Please feel free to comment and let me know how your starting eleven would line up. “Force wa tomo ni oran koto yo (May the Force be with you)”