It’s another guest post. Either I’m feeling lazy or I want to see whether people are more interested in this kind of stuff than the kind of things I normally write. Why not read it and then leave a comment and tell me? Nothing rude, mind, because I’ll come round and set a badger loose in your garden. Personally I’m not sure I agree with the conclusions of the piece, but you might.
This is from Andrew Yates, who is on twitter as @takeabowson1, and it’s a little piece he calls:
Football is a cruel mistress
At five years old I knew exactly what I wanted to be. Not for me a cowboy or a train driver. Nor even, as was fashionable at the time, did I want to be part of the Apollo Crew (though I did have a Spaceman’s suit).
Nope, I wanted to play for Arsenal. I couldn’t wait to grow some Ray Kennedy sideburns, put on a red shirt and stick the ball in the net whilst the adoring masses stood in the North Bank chanting my name and (no place for false modesty here), just kind of worshipping me.
By ten I knew I would never make it or come anywhere close to realising that dream, and whichever way you look at it that’s pretty young to have your ambitions shattered. Nowhere near good enough. Sure I had spent hours over the park with the old man trapping, shielding, dribbling, shooting. Sure, I was reasonably quick (came third in my class race at end of term, beaten by Debbie Thomas), sure I could control the ball pretty instantaneously, see a pass and beat a man, but by ten I knew that there were kids who were just better than me at all these things. Faster, stronger, better.
My point? I am one of millions, literally millions, of people who dreamed that dream but were never good enough. So, so few have that combination of talent, application and yes, luck, to make the jump from fan to player. And of that tiny percentage an even smaller (we’re talking infinitesimal here) go on to play for a club of the stature of Arsenal.
And of that tiny group of people there is an even smaller subset (think gnats chuff and divide by two), who become a legend of Arsenal.
We can all argue about what constitutes a club Legend (or you could look at my post here). Legend has become an overused word, its common usage only serving to devalue its currency, but even with a generous eye I would guess there have been no more than 20 in the 42 years since I first fell in love with Highbury. Twenty men. Not many.
RVP had the chance to join the elite of the elite, a band of men who are followed by adoration, admiration and love wherever they go. It follows them into their dotage long after their wondrous deeds on the pitch have begun to fade from the mind’s eye and it remains a constant sustenance for whatever life’s capriciousness might throw at them.
Instead, he threw it all away. My overriding emotion today is therefore sadness. Sadness for us because we have lost a terrific player and sadness for him because he has lost that chance to live in the hearts of others. Is it a tragedy? No. I refuse to use that word in a football context unless we’re talking Bradford, Hillsborough, Heysel et al, but it is nevertheless a huge shame.
Sure I’ll scream at him along with everybody else when Man Utd come visiting, but I won’t really mean it. While the expletives pour forth from my mouth, my brain will only be thinking, ”Oh Robin, you silly boy”. For no matter what he might go on to achieve at United, and no matter how bloated his bank balance becomes, he will never be loved or regarded in the same way as he was here, as a talisman, as a leader, as a legend.
And the real sadness is that he knows it. Notwithstanding the claims of many Arsenal fans, his move was not just all about the money. He is an intelligent, articulate and probably nice man. Legacy matters to him and he knows that he has blown it.
If anyone has had the stomach to see RvP holding his new curtain shirt next to a beaming alcoholic geriatric, they will have seen that his expression is not one of joy, excitement or even anticipation. They will have seen that his is an expression of joylessness, embarrassment, tension, guilt and no little shame. It is the look of a man who is saying “How on earth did it all come to this?” and that is as “tragic” a plight of the modern footballer, barring injury/ illness etc, that I have seen.
Goodbye Robin van Persie, the man who looked immortality in the eye and said no thanks.