AKA Contemplations Of A Football Lover.
Morning people, thanks for stopping by to read from me as usual. As most of you who follow me probably know, I am a football (soccer to the Americans) lover and I love to talk about football. Of late I have found myself thinking about football and how it is more than just a sport and how similar it is to life itself. Over the past few months I have found myself drawing comparisons between the football experiences I have had and my life experiences. The more I think about it the more the two seem to connect
That is the reason for a new blog series I have decided to start today. Every Wednesday starting from today for the next ten weeks at least, I will be talking about football and how it has shaped my life experience and vice versa. I hope every one will have something to gain from it whether you love football or not. So go along with me on this journey of discovery and I hope by the time it ends ten weeks from now You would have learnt one or two things and maybe learnt to love the beautiful game as well.
IT IS NOT HOW LONG YOU ARE AT THE TOP, BUT WHAT YOU DO WHILE YOU ARE THERE THAT COUNTS
To die young and be honoured is better than to grow old and not even be able to afford the chicken to buy One’s way in the afterlife with- Yoruba Proverb
A few years, My Dad and I were sat watching a sports programme on television, when an highlights reel of Brazilian footballer and former FC Barcelona player and two time winner of the Ball on D’Or winner Ronaldo De Assis Moreira (or Ronaldinho as he is popularly known) came on. As the player performed magic skill after magic skill on the screen, I did not know when I let out: “This guy is so amazing, imagine what he could have achieved if he had a longer career.” My Dad heard that and replied “What do you mean by that? What else could he have achieved that he hasn’t? He has won every trophy and award a footballer could hope to win, World Cup, trophies in Europe and South America for club and country and the World Footballer of the Year twice, so what does he need a longer career for?” I refused to concede, ” But look at Ryan Giggs and the amount of trophies he has racked up for Manchester United, who wouldn’t want that?” He gave that knowing smile “So for all his long years of service would you mention Ryan Giggs is the same class as Ronaldinho?” He added “let me tell you something, it is not how long you are at the top level, it is what you do there that counts.”
That day the penny dropped for me, and that lesson has stayed with me since then. It came to life for me in 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari decided he wanted to contest for President of Nigeria for the fourth time. His campaign was almost entirely based on his stance against corruption and indiscipline, which he demonstrated in his twenty month stint as President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces in 1983. If people are still nostalgic enough about a twenty month performance enough to elect that person as president more than twenty five years later, then, Who has spending donkey years in any top level position ever epped?
It irks me when politicians or people who were in positions of authority, who have been voted out/left said position of authority come out and complain that they had many plans for their followers but they were not allowed to complete their tenures/get more time, like a former governor who became a gubernatorial aspirant because he felt he had not yet completed the work he wants to do in his state. It is a sentiment I talked about just after the Ekiti State 2014 Governorship Elections. For me if you can point to the things you have achieved during your “limited” time in charge and they are satisfactory/visible enough, why should you wish to overstay your welcome? The truth is football like the life of a nation has a longer life span than the career of the player/leader, which means you can’t be at the top forever no matter how long you try to stay (Even Ryan Giggs had to retire at some point). The position will still be there after you are long gone so why believe the only sign of achievement is to stay in power for as long as possible?
That said, for the Manchester United fans who might read this, I don’t intend to denigrate Ryan Giggs. It is not that I do not appreciate the sentiment to want to be at the top and to make a lasting difference a la Lee Kwan Yew, after all as the English anecdote goes “A rolling stone gathers no moss”. In Football Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have been at top level for ten years or more and are both now regarded as two of the best players ever to play football with eight Ball on D’Ors and innumerable trophies between them, but look at the other examples of players like Theo Walcott, who is currently Arsenal FC’s longest serving player yet who for each additional day spent at club, acquires a higher rank on the list of the club’s most useless players. Nobody currently espouses this “leaving when the ovation is loudest” issue like Arsene Wenger. His supporters base their arguments on his first ten years, his critics base theirs on his last ten.
Again I must reiterate that having ambition to change the status quo and wanting to improve on past achievement are perfectly legitimate yearnings, which is why I don’t begrudge Buhari for wanting to be president and the aforementioned Governor turned gubernatorial aspirant, but in the case of Buhari it is now likely that no matter what he manages to do for Nigeria in this second stint, he is likely to receive more abuse than thanks, because his leadership flaws which many did not see because he didn’t have time to reveal them, will now be open to all and the hero will now be revealed to have clay feet just like everybody else. In Football Pep Guardiola is rated higher than Manuel Pellegrini, even though the later has more experience, because the former has managed to win a cabinet full of trophies within a short time in management. Sometimes it is good to leave when the ovation is loudest, Jesus Christ lived for only thirty three years, he is still one of the most influential individuals today, two thousand years after he walked the earth. It is not how long you are in public consciousness that counts, it is what you do while you are at it.