I love football.
It would be difficult to take that from me on. It’s too late to denounce it. Football is associated with passion, excitement, and emotion – both positive and negative. For me, it is an opportunity to emotionally let go and release the frustrations of everyday life. It provides an important means for people to form and maintain strong friendships that might otherwise not exist. Many have described these strong, social bonds in familial, kinship terms. Football’s easy ability to bring people together with the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and the humanity of a shared experience, makes it a powerful communication tool.
In the third quarter of 2011, I scooped some inspirational football news that got me thinking long and deep. Come with me on my journey and share the experience.
Enter Thierry Henry.
December 10, 2011.
‘‘Thierry Henry paid an emotional tribute to Arsenal and his former team-mates after seeing him immortalized by a bronze statue outside Emirates Stadium… Henry – who left for Barcelona in June 2007, where he would go on to lift the Champions League before moving to the Major Soccer League in the United States with New York Red Bulls – said he had initially been left “speechless” by the whole tribute. ‘At the very beginning, when I heard about it, I honestly thought it was a joke, until I realized it wasn’t,’ said Henry, who netted 226 goals as the Gunners won two Premier League titles and the FA Cup twice.’’
Henry had a glittering career at Arsenal. The Gunners’ all-time leading goal scorer, who was signed from Juventus as a 21-year-old in the summer of 1999, displayed clinical finishing during his eight years at the club, during which he scored 226 times in 370 appearances, to eclipse other Arsenal legends Ian Wright and Cliff Bastin, before moving to Barcelona.
Can I be so passionate about a cause and literally give everything to it? When I move on, will I leave a mark there like Henry did? Will they miss me after I’m gone? Will they long for me to return? Will they even be happy if I stopped by?
Thierry Henry lives on after he has moved on.
Enter Juan Mata.
September 28, 2011.
‘‘Chelsea forward Juan Mata insisted he would not celebrate ‘out of respect for a club and supporters that always treated me well’ if he scored against his former club – Valencia, during a UEFA Champions League game. He was given a hero’s welcome at the airport on arriving Spain.’’
Juan teaches me that in life, relationships come to an end. That to enter the next season, I must learn to properly exit. That I should never slam the door when I leave. I should just close it. Gently. In love. For I might need to walk back through it someday. I might. That I should close the door with grace. That when I close the door I should keep a window open. Juan Mata cautions me against throwing a party when ill and misfortune tumbles into the tent of former friends and colleagues. That I shouldn’t rejoice at their calamity. That I should blurt out or bellow loud when adversity struts in, ‘‘Nice. That serves him right’’ That I should magnify their good side and the good things they did; and minimize their bad side and the uncomely things they did. Virtue should be placed on a lamb stand while vice should be buried deep in the sea.
Juan Mata lives on after he has moved on.
Enter Jose Mourinho.
September 17, 2011.
‘‘Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has donated a coaching trophy awarded for his treble-winning season with Inter Milan for auction in memory of Bobby Robson, his mentor and boss at Sporting Lisbon, Porto and Barcelona. Before becoming one of the world’s great coaches, Mourinho had a low-key playing career and his break in football came as a result of being hired as an interpreter by Robson at Sporting Lisbon in 1992. Robson took Mourinho with him when he was hired as coach of Porto and the duo also worked together at Barcelona during the 1996-97 seasons. Mourinho moved into management at Benfica, but made his name back at Porto where he won the 2004 Champions League, before joining Chelsea and winning the Premier League twice.”
Mourinho became Real Madrid coach in 2010. An outspoken admirer of his former mentor, he has donated arguably the most prestigious personal award of his glittering career. Real Madrid’s Portuguese manager, 48, was awarded FIFA’s Ballon D’Or World Coach of the Year award in 2010, the year he won the Champions’ League with Inter Milan. Former England and Barcelona manager Robson died of lung cancer two years ago at age 76. He is credited with helping launch Mourinho’s career in football. Mourinho has recognized the part Sir Bobby played in his own football development by giving the wonderful money-can’t-buy prize – to the delight of organizers and the Robson family alike. ‘The entire family is completely astounded by this generous gift from Mourinho. We are thrilled and so thankful to him’, Robson’s son Mark said.’’
Mourinho’s character is absolutely astounding, something I keep pondering on. If he so honoured his mentor in death, then his magnanimity is an undisputed pointer to how much he honoured him while he was alive.
Mourinho challenges me by this his unparalleled gratitude. I don’t ever want to forget the fingers that have fed me. I don’t ever want to forget the rock from where I was hewed. I don’t ever want to forget the people who have given me opportunities in this life. People who have given me their shoulders to climb on to get to where I am today. People who have given me their houses to ‘squad’; at whose homes I have variously eaten. People who have made recommendations about me to others, on which recommendations doors opened for me. People who have given me platforms to express my gifts and talents, from which platforms I have built many beneficial relationships. For no matter how ‘lighted’ I was, if I was not ‘heighted’ by them on the platforms they provided, I would probably never have been ‘sighted’ by anyone. And I don’t ever want to forget people with whom I have shared crying moments. People who have encouraged me to cross valleys. People whose thunderbolts of flaming words smoked this bloke to many victories. Relentless cheerleaders on the stands who screamed, ‘Go for gold.’
The attitudes of these soccer greats have made significant impact on my life. Jose Mourinho particularly stands out. So my heartfelt gratitude goes to everyone who has helped me in any capacity. I would not be where I am today – and who I am today – without your assistance. For this I’m eternally grateful. Feel my ink. Feel my pulse. Feel this teary gratitude, but don’t clean the tears. Bask in the bliss – the emotional viewing pleasure – as the tears cascade down and roll off my cheek. Hear the beats from this grateful heart. I alone know the cost of this teary perfume.
If I received a trophy, I would gladly donate it to you. But please accept this trophy of words. I want you to know that you mean so much to me. I’m not a self-made man. Never have I been. Never will I be. No one has ever been. No one will ever be. For the input you’ve made to my life – no matter how small – please accept this trophy of words. I will someday hand you a physical ‘trophy.’ Not after you die, but while you are still alive.
Because you live on after I moved on.
Let’s learn from Thierry, Juan and Jose.
This is how you can live on after you’ve moved on.