Friday, August 17, 2012

The Departed

Death comes in many different ways. Sometimes it is sudden. But at other times, it comes with a warning. The patient is diagnosed with a fatal disease and after that it is just suffering. Yes, you oscillate between hope and despair, but mostly despair. And then inevitably, it comes. The early warning sign at the time of the diagnosis of the disease does help in somewhat softening the blow, but it does not totally mitigate the pain, when you lose a loved one. It still is all very miserable.
The entire Robin van Persie transfer saga felt a little like this. Yes, we got the warning of the fatal disease, when he released this update for the fans. Like everybody, I too knew the game was up, that the bridge had been burnt beyond repair, but when the news of the transfer came last night, I still felt rather sick. It was no surprise - after all the disease was fatal but when he departed - I still felt like shit.
The post Invincibles era at Arsenal has seen a yearly exodus of stars. And I am rather used to this, but there was something about this player, this episode that irked, something that hit us where it hurt the most. Despite going through 7 trophy less seasons, Arsenal have still given the football fan in me enough joy and entertainment over the years. There have been some superb footballers who have worn the red and white and played with distinction. And I have loved them all. But then, before this - I had Tony Adams, Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry as my footballing Gods, it would require really special players to enter this league of heroes. And I did find two players who became and I use the term carefully here - HEROES for me. Sporting heroes of course, but heroes nevertheless.
And so as the likes of Adebayor, Toure, Hleb, Clichy and later Nasri came and went through the revolving doors at London Colney, leaving our team a little weaker, a little poorer, I carried on with just a shrug.  I was however, heartbroken to see Cesc leave last year. Cesc Fabregas, who as I have found on reflection, happens to be the only sporting hero that I have had who is younger than me; a remarkable player, who played for us with such splendid craft, skill and courage from such a young age, but eventually left for his hometown club. It was tough to swallow, but carry on I did - because we still had Robin. Him, of the cultured left foot and the chocolate right one.
So when yesterday, 15th August, exactly 365 days after Cesc's departure, it was announced that van Persie was leaving for Manchester United - I guess the one place we did not want him to go, it brought to an end the Arsenal career of a quite wonderfully talented player, who fulfilled his promise only briefly. An Arsenal career blighted by injuries, but lit up with some spectacular form over the last 18 months - over just when he was in the process of building his legacy and all that...

Henri Ducard: ..... But if you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, and if they can't stop you, then you become something else entirely. 
Bruce Wayne: Which is? 
Henri Ducard: A legend, Mr. Wayne. 
Arsene Wenger may not have said this exactly to Robin van Persie, but in his vision, in his ideal world, he would have wanted RvP to devote his career to an ideal of a self sustaining, profit making, Fifa "Fair Playing", successful football club. Him and us fans, all wanted the Dutchman to become a genuine club legend; and with his sensational last season - he seemed well on his way. But as we found out, like Batman - Robin too did not share his mentor's vision.
There has been much talk of how his decision to walk out on the club and move on to greener, more successful pastures is a betrayal, but it all sounds a bit hypocritical to me. After all, who among us would give up a chance to work for an employer who doubled, nay - tripled my salary and gave me a chance for a more successful career - I certainly would jump at the bit. I understand that the regular cubicle dweller does not have fans all around the world - but that does not change the fundamentals - he is a professional who has sought to do what is best for him - whatever his motivations. I have to respect that.
The problem is, and the problem is entirely of our own creation, that we believed him to be something else. We believed, wrongly, that he too was fan first and then a player, that somehow he was different to the average mercenary footballer, that his actions and conduct, and our reciprocal love, was enough to make it a lifelong bond.
And so two things to end this stupid, pathetic little rant of mine. Number one: I thank RvP and Cesc ( I never could bring myself to write about him this last one year) for lighting up so many dull weekend evenings and sleepless midweek nights with their football. It often took one stroke of RvP's cultured left foot to turn a match from turgid to splendid, it only took one driving run and clinical finish from Cesc to turn a tense, nervy evening into a glorious one. So, the these two gentlemen, who have departed from our club - I thank you.

Number two: Also too have departed is the fanboy within me - that part of me that still believed in the concept of having sporting heroes and idols and all that rubbish. That part, which despite being well past his childhood and youth, kept desktop images of footballers; that part which believed that some players were a little different to others and could also be fans of the club; that part which believed that those that kiss the badge meant it......
What all this means is that I soldier on, sadder, but wiser - but just as a fan of the club and the club alone, and continue to enjoy the wonderful football served by Arsene Wenger's men. Bring on the new season now !


  1. Enjoyed reading. Sincere and heartfelt post, as always.

  2. Another insightful piece. While it talks about 2 specific players at large the underlying theme of sporting heroes is immense.

    Very well put across however tough it might have been and I understand the emotions. I mean I saw my team lose a title in extra time.

    In a pragmatic way and whilst we think of them as professionals, RvP had the courtesy to put his decision at a time which allowed AW to make his moves in the market. Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla along with the return of Wilshere at some point in time makes it an exciting season for Arsenal. I'm sure and I hope you will agree that a season defining player in gargantuan terms has been a rock of a CB, which in Arsenal's case presents a fabulous opportunity for Vermalen to shine ala Vidic and Kompany in previous seasons.

    Anyway, the season is literally here so bring it on!


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