There are three breeds of footballers.
The first of the kind are called “Mercenaries”. They do not understand “attachment” to fans, players, managers. They play football primarily for two reasons – earn a lot of money and travel to a lot of new places (clubs, countries). In an analogous way, fans do not get emotionally attached to such players even if they are extremely good at their job.
Then there is an “Extremely Loyal” kind. This is a breed which is almost on the verge of extinction. These players get very easily attached to the “football family” they play for, earn money from. They are not motivated enough by silverware or liquid cash filled in oil barrels of Arabian Merchants. The fans, players and managers are very close to these players and they admire and respect such atypical prototypes.
Then there is a third kind – “At a crossroad”! These players claim to be loyal footballers, show extreme love towards fans, managers and team-mates while they are at the club. Similarly, the fans return the favor by showering endless affection in their own inimitable ways. These players, are however, highly motivated by money and silverware, the latter they ingeniously term as “ambition”.
It is an outstanding thing to be ambitious in life; all great footballers have been determined to achieve greatness by winning a lot of trophies for their respective clubs as well as individual accolades for themselves. But winning and achieving “greatness” come at a cost – trust, loyalty and patience juxtaposed with a bit of luck.
If you have been a great servant to the club, performing consistently over the years, having been particularly ambitious, you have all the right to want the same from your club, manager and team-mates. There is no point in playing in an environment of mediocrity if you are at the peak of your capabilities. Having said that, there should be a perfect harmony between what you preach and what you actually do.
Cases in point, at Arsenal, there are a number of players who can be considered to understand the above.
He ‘did it all’ for Arsenal and almost single-handedly raised the level of football played at Highbury in the Arsene era. He was surely helped by his team-mates, who ‘did their bit’ in achieving Invincibility during the early 2000s. After achieving everything in league football, and almost picking up a European medal in Paris, he wanted to ‘move on’, to “try out” fresher challenges.
He was so attached to the club that he made a 30 mins video explaining them why he wished to move on. In Thierry’s case, such a video was not needed – He is a legend at Arsenal, he will always be. He had performed immensely over a long period of time and matched every expectation the fans had from the stupendous footballer that he was. His departure was a scene of sadness and mutual respect with the fans wishing him all the best and thanking him for his incredible service to the club.
Almost 999 of 1000 Arsenal fans will define the Frenchman with one particularly distasteful four letter-word. Such unison of opinion can only happen if the player has done something extremely disrespectful to the club, and so it was. Nasri claimed to have loved the club and believed in the ‘system’ not such a long time before he left for supposedly greener pastures. Citing ‘ambition’ as a plausible reason and winning silverware as the ultimate objective, Samir appeared in the Light Blue of Manchester City as Arsenal fans discussed about his family in repugnant tones on public forums.
The irony of the situation lied in the fact that Nasri indeed won silverware at City – but the story doesn’t end there. He chose to open his mouth yet again talking about how his move from Arsenal was a faultless order from the holy upstairs and that “he proved a point” to the Arsenal fans. In case, you, an ignorant football fan, is unaware of it; that point was “Manchester City fans are more passionate than Arsenal fans”. Well, let us leave it at that, this is a debate for another day!
After serving the club with paramount dedication and commitment over a period when the club was going through a transition phase, Fabregas was the closest anybody came to the greatness of the level of Thierry Henry. He captained the club when it was in dire straits; he played with pain; he played with conviction, and he played for the cannon on his chest! The case with Cesc was that every Arsenal fan knew that he would, one day, return to his ‘Mother Club’. The only question that remained was “When?”!
Finally, the time came before the start of last season when the Catalans broke Arsenal’s resistance. A few believed that he could have stayed for a few more years, win something for the club and then left. More than a few accepted his departure with a heavy heart but with warm wishes for a better and brighter future playing in his homeland for the best football team on the planet. A reasonable football fan would just conclude this case with “Come on!”
Robin van Persie
An arrogant and nauseating character, almost of the Joey Barton archetype, van Persie was picked up from Feyenoord back in 2004. He was nurtured and domesticated at Arsenal by Arsene and his medical staff over the years. After spending more time in the medical room than the football pitch, van Persie, finally, arrived to the occasion. He had a phenomenal year with Arsenal, even wearing the captain’s arm-band and leading from the front on multiple occasions with magnificent goal-scoring performances one after another.
He became the fans’ favorite with his humble demeanor and amiable personality off the pitch, claiming to never leave the ‘club he loved’. All in all, he was Arsenal’s poster-boy, the quintessential front-man, the one-man representative of that famous Red n White.
Then this happened –
“I personally have had a great season but my goal has been to win trophies with the team and to bring the club back to its glory days. Out of my huge respect for Mr. Wenger, the players and the fans I don’t want to go into any details, but unfortunately in this meeting it has again become clear to me that we in many aspects disagree on the way Arsenal FC should move forward. I’ve thought long and hard about it, but I have decided not to extend my contract. You guys, the fans, have of course the right to disagree with my view and decision and I will always respect your opinions.”
With that, Robin van Persie’s stocks amongst Arsenal fans fell like nine pins in a perfect bowling strike. More than half the Gooner lot believed that van Persie was never motivated by money and that an early and ambitious transfer market activity will almost definitely make him sign a new contract. He was close to his roots, disciplined and matured in every aspect of the game. He projected himself as a polished persona with humility decorating his scintillating displays on the pitch. Arsenal fans expected van Persie to behave like a professional, like the personality he projected.
Money vs Loyalty
Then that thing happened! That thing which throws loyalty, love and attachment out of the window! Manchester City came calling with an irrefutable offer. Money changes footballers, changes their priorities, changes their ethics, makes them gulp down integrity and throw away allegiance towards anything. The operative word used to masquerade the immorality of this entire procedure is “ambition”. Van Persie cited the fact that his ‘ambitions’ don’t match with that of Arsenal’s! Throughout last season, he kept on telling the fans and the manager that some ‘classy’ additions to this Arsenal squad, which finished third last season can help them win silverware this season.
Arsene “delivered”, with two top-class signings in German International Lukas Podolski and French International Olivier Giroud. The management even promoted Steve Bould to the position of assistant manager as Pat Rice departed. Many believe that Bould is one conceivable answer to Arsenal’s defensive problems – the man is capable of disciplining this leaky defence of Arsenal. Even after this, van Persie’s ‘ambitions’ didn’t match that of Arsene and Gazidis. If that is an understandable contradiction on the part of van Persie or a case of misunderstanding from fans, is, well, anybody’s guess.
It all comes down to how Arsene will handle this situation. Selling van Persie to Manchester City, ‘earning the bucks’ and investing that on what is needed at Arsenal is an obvious option. But, Arsene has never done the obvious; he has always opened a bottle of champagne and thrown away the bottle, instead of pouring it into the glass. However, now is the time to act differently, strongly and quickly.He has to let emotion take the backdoor and act upon the immediate needs of Arsenal Football Club.
Players come, players impress, players go, but the club and the crest remains a constant. Robin van Persie, for whom a fan said “was one contract signing away from being a legend at Arsenal”, may think he has done the smartest thing in the world by making a diplomatic announcement behind the back of the management, but in actuality, he has taken a hot hammer with the pointed end and dropped it on his toes. Van Persie has lost it all – respect, love and whatever chemistry he had with fans. Bouchra van Persie will no longer find any pleasure in shopping in the London malls, Shaqueel will no longer have hundreds of internet groups dedicated to him. Arsenal not only respected a player, it embraced an entire family. Now, all that is gone!
He is no more Arsenal’s poster-boy! Bye van Persie! Arsenal moves on!