Reflections on Yaya Toure | : | Reflections on Commitment

April 17, 2013


A relationship requires commitment. This commitment reveals desire to be not a static emotion, but a transitive movement. In the instance of committal, two parties are brought into a stark proximity – each individual motion having a doubled effect external to oneself, whilst one’s own motions feel strangely, inexorably, as though they originate elsewhere. How can Yaya Toure not immediately spring to mind in light of this idea? Is he not reflected, like the sheen from a concave surface, within the idea of commitment, within the very motion that his rivals make to try and stop him?


        Sympathy constitutes friendship; but in love there is a sort of antipathy, or opposing  passion. Each strives to be the other, and both together make up one whole.                       



I played with him for two-and-a-half seasons but for a lot of that time I was on the  bench. So I watched him, I brought my friends just to watch him. He was so good.

                        (Anouar Bou-Sfia, Toure’s teammate at Beveren, 2001–2003)

A defender [1] is required to commit himself to the tackle. Drawn to the talismanic force of the runner, the movement of his feet [2] a locus of desire, he is forced into a movement at once creative and destructive, potentially enabling and potentially dispossessing. In the moment before the tackle is completed, both of these possibilities exist in tandem [3] – the defendeur is facilitating the attacker’s onward movement, and blocking his progress at the same time. In being drawn to the runner, he is acting both of his own volition to prove a strong presence at the back, and is completely determined in his movements, fuelled by the opponent’s silent call to blindly act. Either way, the desiring action is triggered by the arrival of the other, and the threat of the other’s potential disappearance [4]. The entire timeline of a relationship is prefigured in the defendeur’s committal – the desire for it to begin, and the destruction of that passion which Coleridge implies lurks latent within an essential antipathy.

Toure is the exact kind of player who forces les defendeurs into sudden moments of ‘commitment’. In being drawn to his imposing physique, his speed and his ball control, thus freeing up the movement of the forward line to move unchallenged up the field, defendeurs are made to abandon the macro-tactics of the game itself, and focus on him and him alone. What are the implications of this erotics of defence? It seems only natural at this point to turn to Deleuze:


I see there an effect of repression, precisely at the frontier of the micro and the macro: sexuality, as a historically variable and determinable desiring-assemblage, with its points of deterritorialisation, flux and combination, will be reduced to a molar instance, “sex”, and even if the processes of this reduction aren’t repressive,the (non-ideological) effect is repressive, in so far as the assemblages are broken, not only in their potentialities, but in their micro-reality.  [5]


Deleuze sees defensive desire as a desire-machine, built by society’s mechanically repressive forces which re-enact themselves at each step. However, what the defendeur’s moment of ‘commitment’, or ‘commitment-machine’, or ‘commmachine’, or ‘coine’ does is to go one step, or ‘step’, further. Rather than mechanically traversing repressive forces at the point of desire, the defender is actively locked into repressive patterns by an agent, not a mechanical force. Toure’s brute force and skilful movement closes the field of jeu as it supervenes onto defendeur’s epistemological field. The defendeur is blinded by desire for the agent [6], to the point where his moment of commitment to a relationship kills other possibilities. The doomed lover is locked in a cell, the key thrown away [7].


Desiring Toure provokes even more nihilistic consequences than those proposed by Deleuze. While Deleuze postulates the idea of two agents traversed by unconscious repressive forces, Toure consciously leads the defendeur on, engaging their desire only to enact his coercive technologies of repression. Their thoughts of desire are only used within a relationship of Toure’s control. Their commitment is not repaid. Indeed, the tackle they commit to can only destroy the object of desire – either the attacking player is dispossessed, the thrill of the chase cut short and the object made undesirable, or the attacker storms past, the commitment all for nothing. The defendeur’s commitment in desiring Toure and his accompanying ball-booty only exists in a relational sense – as a promise that will always be let down, an aim that will always fail, a game always lost. But of course, the loss of the defendeur’s individual game with a figure like Toure, opens up the wider field of play, and a wider field of pleas. The jeu itself still continues, temporarily stalled by Toure’s techniques of repression that force the defendeur into a myopic perspective. In engineering this experience, the true poetics of Toure’s play are laid bare for the skilled onlooker. For in forcing the defendeur to come to terms with the inexorability of desire, with the fact that the object of desire will always be hindered, squandered, and unfulfilled within the lifespan of the jeu, Toure forces us to confront the innate pathos of the moment of ‘commitment’. The defendeur is all of us, lured in by, and forced to chase after, the impossible dreams that ultimately give our positions in life glimmers of hoped-for meaning.



[1] Henceforth referred to as ‘Le defendeur’, in accordance with Blatterian protocol


[2] Henceforth referred to as ‘feet’


[3] See ‘The Goodies’


[4] For a postcolonial analysis of Toure as desired by the market forces of the Western capitalist game, c.f. H. Bhabha, The Location of Klose, and other essays (Routledge, 2006)


[5] G. Deleuze, Desire & Pleasure, trans. Melissa McMahon (1997). For Deleuze’s analyses on the micro-realities of sexual repression in relation to football, see The Referee’s a Wanker: Micro-technologies at the Level of the Simulacrum, and Some Thoughts on Chris Waddle (1987)


[6] cf. F.Muniz, Agent Cody Banks (Hodder & Stoughton, 2003)


[7] Chaucer, The Knight’s Tale



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