Monday, November 29th, 2021
For me, one of the most impressive sights in Premier League football is the ability of Marcelo Bielsa, the Leeds United manager, to squat for long periods of the game. Whilst most managers pace up and down, or throw water bottles, Bielsa will be down on his haunches, watching his team from about three foot off the ground. Leaving aside the question of whether or not this is a good vantage point to follow the game, he does display an almost nonchalant talent for a position most of us couldn’t easily hold for more than a minute.
The sad truth is that we in the West have lost the art of squatting, which must have come as a sixth sense to our forefathers, and which still comes naturally to much of the rest of the world. I blame the chair. In The Complete And Utter History of Britain series Terry Jones wrote a sketch in which a man goes to the patent office with the very first chair. When asked what it’s for he replies that ‘it’s for sitting down, higher up’.
And once you can sit down higher up, you can look down on those below you and chairs become thrones and pretty soon you’re bossing people about and getting them to kneel. Squatting is not just an egalitarian activity, it’s also proven to be a much better position for emptying your bowels. Lavatories offer a greater control of waste disposal but a much less effective way of waste expulsion.
On my travels, especially in what we rather patronisingly call the less industrialized countries, I found that squatting is for many the default position not just for defecation but for conversation too. It requires no paraphernalia other than strong quads and pliable hamstrings. And it does away with ticket touts.
I think we could learn a thing or two from Marcelo Bielsa.