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Monday, February 7, 2011

What Does the Word ‘Commitment’ Really Mean in Football?

After the circus of events that occurred during the transfer saga of Chelsea new boy Fernando Torres – a player who had clearly come out in January 10th 2011 to reiterate his commitment to Liverpool – I for one have found myself going back to the dictionary to really confirm what the word ‘commitment’ means.

Oxford Student’s Dictionary of English, the one that I used, defines commitment as ‘being prepared to give a lot of your time and attention to something because you believe it’s right or important,’ or ‘a promise or agreement to do something; a responsibility’.

The keywords for me here are agreement, time and responsibility. And I believe any professional in any field should ensure that these three key things are present in their character, personality and in what they do. And that includes football. When a player agrees to sign for a club and declares that he/she is committed, they should be all set to give a lot of time – though not all of their time – and attention to the course of the club and see that as a responsibility, not merely a task to accomplish or ditch in the middle.

But as far as football is concerned, I want to think that those three elements of agreement, time and responsibility have gone astray in the beautiful game. 

Able to unite and electrify, this game can also partition and bring immeasurable fury. A fury that would make fans, and even the media, call a player who has jumped ship to a rivaling team ‘a traitor’. Again, my lexicon defines a traitor as ‘a person who is not loyal to his/her country, friends, (add club), etc. A ‘trait’ in this effect is defined as ‘a quality that forms part of your character or personality.’ Just to link up those two, disloyalty forms part of the character and personality of a traitor. 

So when a player comes out willingly, without duress and clearly states “My head is in Liverpool and on helping save our season. I am professional and I always fulfill my deals. I haven’t considered leaving, although in football that depends on the club,” perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into that and conclude that the player is loyal or committed to the course of the club.

It’s hard to argue that there’s no loyalty in modern football. Arguing that there is even more intricate. In Liverpool, combative defender Jamie Carragher and inspirational captain Steven Gerard (though he was consistently tempted to join Chelsea, but he never will) stand out from the crowd as club loyalists. I also tend to believe that one Ryan Babel could have stayed with the club for quite some time without wanting out.

Manchester United’s success over the last 20 years can be attributed to the loyalty of the likes of Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Garry Neville and one Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. These individuals have not only been loyal to the club but to supporters, the club’s owners (including the Glazers) and one Sir Alex Ferguson.

Chelsea have their John Terry and Frank Lampard, while the likes of Gianlugi Buffon, Alesandro Del Piero, Raul, Andrea Pirlo, Gutti, San Iker Casillas and Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez I Cruise and Carles Puyol Saforcada have proved beyond doubt that you can remain in one club and win honours with them.

I have left out the mercurial, gifted, Ballon d’Or-retaining Lionel Messi in this list of loyalists intentionally. Reason being that one never fails to wonder if he could have remained with the Catalan giants were it not that they were ‘the best (club) there has ever been’ according to one Paul Macdonald

Money has annihilated modern football. How many players have we seen move from one club to another for money today? While the likes of Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney would threaten to walk out, of course only to change mind after being locked in a meeting where their cheques are fattened, the likes of Christiano Ronaldo, Ashley Cole and I believe Fernando Torres give no damn.

But leaving a club is never a problem. The problem normally is how do you leave the club? El Nino leaving Liverpool wasn’t bad. The way he left the club was. In a bad but improving shape, with a new manager trying to inspire players who had been lacking inspiration, and need I say it, on transfer deadline day.

But of course it’s hard to really blame the players. They want to command huge wages and sponsorship deals. They want to make hay while the sun shines. They want to win titles and honours. For theirs is the talent and they want to make as much of it as they last.

To them, whoever said patience pays should have been crucified, immediately.

And That’s thesteifmastertake!!