“How On Earth Has He Missed That?”: Delocating Target Domains, Relocating Fernando Torres

August 23, 2012


“My sense of duty requires me to arrive unwelcomed”
Avital Ronell

.01. “He missed short putts because of the uproar of the butterflies in the adjoining meadows”[1]

Fernando Torres’ “transfer” from Liverpool FC to Chelsea FC was not just a transaction, it was a transition, a transportation, a non-transitory translation – indeed, it was a transformation. Avital Ronell once said that Derrida’s reading of Hermann Cohen was an exercise intended to “put the protest back in Protestantism” by means of the hypothetical imperative. Here, I mean to suggest that Torres has put the miss back in transmission. Here, I hope to make transparent the nature of the causal relationship between Fernando Torres’ “transfer” and what has been called his “reduced ability in front of goal”, exploring, in detail, the concept of miss.[2]

We must understand that, for the striker at least, to score is to succeed. The striker’s position is defined by this mission of glorified scoreboard addition – she is the always-already intended goalscorer par excellence. As such, extended periods of goallessness typically draw widespread criticism from the footballing establishment. Hansen et. al. react with rage at squandered opportunities, shots gone wide, Wilde, “deeds ill done”.[3]  But it is partly because of the disparity between Torres’ pre-Chelsea and post-Chelsea goal conversion figures (65 goals in 102 league games vs. 7 in 46, respectively), as Dennis Wise has argued, that he has been subject to a particularly brutal media onslaught.

These figures betray the extent of the transfer’s influence on Torres’ ability to convert. Conversion, from the Latin “convertere”, is, literally, to “transform”, its first syllable originating from “com”, meaning “together”. These associations are important. To convert is to metamorphosize (or, of course, to be the causally responsible initiator of metamorphosis) in the Ovidian sense, but it is also to merge together, to be together, to come together.[4]  We can conclude through careful statistical analysis that Torres’ transfer is not only a factor but very likely the key causal factor in his decreased ability to convert CoGs (or, chances on goal) to Gs (or, goals).

Can Torres, then, be likened to the Derridean utterance, the Manian allegory or the Heideggerian Dasein – that is to say, has Torres recognised his own finititude, his own inability to score the transcendental goal? What is it about this coming-apart that has left Torres unable to put-together? Why is his own transformation causally responsible for his inability to transform? Frustrated by his state of fixity, his inability to embrace malleability, utterances like “£50million flop” have become commonplace. Is Torres the Wodehousian golfer noted above, distracted by the external, overwhelmed by the elsewhere?

.02. “The Spaniard is Kafka’s Abraham, answering the non-specific call of the other with an assuredness that says: maybe he meant it”

The Ovidian approach to goal-conversion, characterised by its temporality, might suggest for its alternative (namely, goal-aversion) staticity or fixity as a typical characteristic. Yet it is here that we recognise quite how analogous the grassy matrix is to our struggles outside the field of play, off the pitch, back on the training ground. The grassy matrix, perhaps unsurprisingly, given that it is itself a man-made construct, serves to reflect, both literally and analogously, the phallogocentric, eurocentric pursuit of meaning and the associated hierarchical conditions of “play”.

Yet both “on and off the pitch”, it is true that to fail to convert is, in some sense, to avoid, and to reject conversion is to accept aversion – to enter the area where indecency beckons and dwells. And whether welcome or unwelcome, we cannot deny that such an entrance is still an entrance. It may well be the conclusion of a journey without a cause, but like the French situationists of the 1950s, whose attempts at tearing down the edifices of capitalist society through aimless Parisian dérive seem almost paradoxically teleological in their deontology, Torres’ aversion is a conversion on its own terms. Torres has found the area that Nietzsche once ushered us towards, hoping that we might embrace it, tremble with it, become it. Like the dunce in Kafka, Torres submerges himself in this wasteland. Statistically, April was the cruellest month.[5]  His transfer from Anfield was a journey towards the unknowable, a hearing of the other’s call that may or may not have been intended for him. We must not forget that this is the psychoanalytical process – the question on the tip of the psychoanalytic tongue: where does it hurt? Where do we carry our history, and how is it? Why and what are we repressing? When? Torres’ missing is a vomiting, an excretive healing process – we might even speak of Nietzsche as the vomiting philosopher (in many ways medicine and philosophy are in complicity by virtue of their mutual attempts to name “the conditions for wholesomeness”). Every bildungsprocess, or educational pedagogical narrative, is about conversion and the associated mastery of conversion; as we observe Torres, it becomes obvious that so often this serves to undermine the significance of the inhospitable domain. Yet it is so closely bound up with it that, to some, it has become indistinguishable.[6] We cannot pretend at ignorance, nor dismiss in disbelief – the limits of our own agency simply do not permit us this luxury. Lyotard calls this limitation the “mainmaise”, a grip so tight that we are not even aware that we are under its thumb, the thumb – under my thumb.[7] This is the difficulty of the situation the modern footballeur finds herself in. And yet here is Torres, missing the mark, the opportunity – indeed, missing the goal – but in missing, like the first Turks’ self-inoculation against smallpox, Torres finds the disease that cures him.

Plenty is at stake when we negotiate with the concept of Torres. Issues of scoring, assisting, mastering. Issues of welcoming, unwelcoming, spectatorship, committing. Issues of conversion, aversion, inversion. When we speak of conversion, we are speaking of, about, behind Fernando Torres . Such has been his overriding influence on utterances which refer (or defer) to modern notions of goal conversion. Ronell speaks of how every scenario evidences the incursion of the master, but here we speak of the incursion of the conversion and, indeed, the necessary incursion of the inverted aversion to conversion. Fernando Torres seeks to miss. And to miss, as we all know, is to realize. To miss is to avert rather than convert. The incursion of conversion is, through inversion, an aversion. In missing, Fernando Torres is, like Nietzsche, then, urging us towards the area of unintelligibility and indecency. Like Oskar Schindler, Torres is undermining the goals of hierarchical power structures from the inside, continually “missing” his target. Manquante est aimer.

.03: “On the evening of 9/11, W, after hours in hiding, came out to say, ‘This was a test.’”

Like the lived world of the religious, then, can the pitch be considered a glorified, aesthetically pleasing test lab? If God can be said to have a taste for anything, then it may well be in the incontrovertible necessity of the test. If God is the divine tester, then, in the arena of football, “PLATINI IS GOD” (MrPodridox 3 months ago). Kant, not long after completing his Third Critique, wondered whether we might test the faith of theology students. Is it the essence of faith to refuse the test? Is Fernando Torres failing the test, or refusing the test? Would a shot constitute an attempt at the test, or would his aiming-elsewhere excuse it of this categorisation? Can we logically fail if we do not try?

These are the questions that Fernando Torres asks of us. Like Gregory House, he prefers not to “think of this life as just a test”.[8]  And he is paid for the privilege. How could his employers adopt grim when his discount rate is so staggering that they are left stupefied? Desperate times call for extrema remedia. Torres, hands reaching, gestures to an open space. He runs into it, receives the pass, and, with outstretched fingers, he touches the face of God.


I always think about what I missed, and I think that was my driving force
    Thierry Henry

[1] “The Clicking of Cuthbert”, P.G. Wodehouse, Arrow (2008)

[2] (even in passing references which presuppose the assent of the     readership) – “Game-in-hand: Heidegger and The Footballing Dasein”, David Foot, Cambridge University Press (2011)

[3] Act IV, Scene II of King John, William Shakespeare

[4] “Come Together”, The Beatles

[5] http://www.premierleague.com/en-gb/players.html

[6] “Einsteinian Relativity and the Concept of Extra-Time”, William K. Redford, Oxford University Press (2010)

[7] “Under My Thumb”, The Rolling Stones

[8] Gregory House


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