It’s well known that I support two clubs and really do not enjoy matches where they play each other. AC Milan I started watching because for some reason Serie A was randomly on TV somewhat regularly in New Orleans in the 1990s. The iconic kits of the Rossoneri helped develop and nurture my love of the beautiful game. Arsenal I more of less fell into by accident, but it’s turned out to be a good choice.
In the last couple of weeks both clubs have dropped bombshells on their fans. The realities of the transfer window have made me question a lot about being a football fan in general. What does it mean to me and why does it hurt to lose certain players? Bloggers and tweets have discussed this being the death of football as large and frankly incomprehensibly large amounts of money become the norm not the exception. Football isn’t dead for the simple fact that fans exist. There have always been rich club, and we we always have clubs with limited resources. Inequities are a constant, but football continues.
The best center back in the world is going to play in Ligue 1?
Apologies to my PSG friends, but right now I feel about your club the way that many EPL fans feel about City. Jealous of your financial resources, with a heavy dose of bitter that Milan has sold Thiago Silva to you as part of a £51 million deal, which means the he and Ibrahimovic cost less than Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson (£55 million).
It’s likely my bias in favor of the EPL and Serie A that makes me look a bit askance at a player in his prime going to Ligue 1. Again though, with the clubs rumored to be interested in Thiago Silva, Barcelona for one, it’s hard to see this move to PSG as anything aside from being in the financial interest of one Silvio Berlusconi. We know it isn’t because conquering Ligue 1 is such a glamourous prize. It’s because PSG is willing to pay a premium to buy all the toys they desire. Obviously questions are raised about when Financial Fair Play is going to be instituted. Many big clubs, Milan included have debt issues, but those issues will be written on by people with a better grasp of budgets of football clubs. I write as someone who really enjoys football.
I thought the deal was shocking. With Nesta finally leaving Milan at the end of this last season, I saw Thiago Silva filling the big shoes of defenders who stepped onto the pitch at the San Siro before him. This does however, make me feel good about not having a Milan kit with a name on the back of it. I wanted to be able to watch Silva run the defense like a general. Like a future captain. Like Milan has come to expect.
He’s left us with good memories, such as defending against some of the best in the world, and of course scoring that extra time header against Barcelona. Silva seemed determined to stay, but in the end money does talk, and there comes a price point where an owner and board would be irresponsible not to take what’s offered. PSG quite literally made and offer that Milan couldn’t refuse.
Robin van Persie: this is not a love letter *
I thought that this would happen. Scratch that. I really really really didn’t want this to happen. As a fan I had faith in the player who had stepped up and been the captain that Arsenal needed during a particularly dark fall of 2011. AFC stood by him through injuries because there was obvious talent and potential. Last year he was the Player of the Year in the EPL, and a truly bright spot for fans still smarting from Fabregas backing his bags for Barcelona. He was a damned good captain on and off the pitch during 2011-2012. I will always be appreciative of the leadership he showed during that time.
It’s stupid to get emotionally attached to players. Players aren’t expected to have the same loyalty that fans do. Fans live and breathe a club, while players represent that club. We want players to love their clubs, but we also have to be reasonable and not expect it. There are far more in it for the money (as they likely should be) players than those who want a legacy at one club. Football isn’t populated by multiple Tony Adams or Paolo Maldinis. It’s hard to accept that most players will never love a club like I do, but frankly it’s better for my heart. I just have to learn how to make myself believe that idea.
Speaking with other fans about the letter released on van Persie’s website http://www.robinvanpersie.com made me realize that it was the faith we had in him as the club’s captain that he wouldn’t leave which makes this feel like a betrayal. Many felt blindsided. Others were angry. I was sad. Very sad. People choose players that they love for many reasons. Everyone has a favorite. Robin was mine. Robin had a chance to become a legend, and he’s chosen not to.
I jokingly mentioned on twitter that this was heartbreak that hurt similarly to the break up of that first great love that everyone has in high school. The heart stomping, hope destroying, innocence losing, and a variety of other hyperbolic terms. And it hurts like hell. Intellectually you know it’s a small problem of decidedly small importance relative to poverty or hunger, but at the moment you’re told the news it can feel like your entire world is crumbling.
No matter who wears the captain’s armband, I’m still going to be up way too early on Saturday mornings here in the US to watch the Gunners. I’m going to wear my kit and yell at the tv. It’s going to be glorious because I will be watching Arsenal.
Players leave. Clubs remain.
* This section of the post previously appeared on my Arsenal specific blog http://www.acoupleofgoons.wordpress.com