“If I walked on water, my accusers would say it is because I cannot swim.”
-Former German coach Berti Vogts
“If I walked on water, my accusers would say it is because I cannot swim.”
-Former German coach Berti Vogts
-Sir Kenny Dalglish as he dashed by a reporter who had asked him for a quick word after a match
If you happen to be around a Gunner, ask them who they think the least impressive addition to the Arsenal squad is. You will most likely get an answer that will break my heart. You see, people are most likely to say David Luiz.
I have been following the Premier League for a little over a year now and while a lot has changed in the world in the past year (what with a global pandemic and allied depressing news), one constant has been Arsenal fans being….erm….toxic.
Admittedly, I am not the most technically gifted. People may be right to say that his performance has left a lot to be desired. But, you see, I am not watching football matches just because I love the sport and cannot get enough of it. I know there is technical intelligence and sporting ability to look out for, but I watch the Premier League for the humanity of it all. I cannot help but feel heartbroken when my favourite players underperform or when those I dislike outperform expectations. I admit that in the beginning, it took me ages to differentiate between David and Guendouzi, but I have seen both and analysed their personal influence on the team. So, I request you to bear with me while I go on talking about non-technical reasons for liking a player.
Coming back to David. In the year that I have watched football, one constant had been the sorry state of affairs at Arsenal. I remember when Xhaka was booed at the Emirates stadium and the subsequent abuse he faced. With David, the memes were incessant. Somehow it escaped everyone’s notice that he alone was not responsible for the collapse of the team during certain games. He has seen red cards and referees’ decisions going against him.
But David dealt with such….poise? I don’t know how to describe it. Imagine being in his position. Let’s assume for a second that he is at fault for all of those losses (which he is not because it is all a team effort and no one person should be blamed, but I digress) and look at how he turned it around. He’s been blessed to have the opportunity to prove his critics wrong. People are starting to have (a little) more faith in him and it is wonderful to see him win us over. His leadership qualities are being recognised and he is doing his best to instil good values in the young players of the team. We’ve seen it ourselves: David giving pep talks to Saka and Ainsley during the Community Shield penalties. His importance is invaluable to the club and his wining mentality has brought him this far. I have loved seeing him grow further under Mikel and hope to continue seeing him influence the young lads in the team.
Very few are ever regarded as the very best at what they do. The world of managerial football is no different. It is flooded with great managers who have brought great glory for their teams and players. Their style has brought out the best in players and given joy to fans and club owners alike. And yet, despite no dearth of amazing managers, one man is regarded as the very best at managing a football team.
When one makes a statement as bold as this, one must substantiate on it, surely? This man has brought out the passions of not just players but cities and countries too. His working style has revolutionised football and changed the course of history for a handful of clubs and cities. He is popularly called your favourite manager’s favourite manager!
He is equipped with the power to command attention and discipline. His work ethic is – simply put – insane. He has a knack for identifying players who will fit into his scheme and mould them into the best versions of themselves. He has promised – and delivered – to make a few of his players the very best in the world. His style of work has scared a few. Its intensity makes people physically ill, but they follow him because they know he gets the results. His passion and knowledge culminate into sweet, sweet fruits.
His cult personality and devote fan-following have elevated his legendary status. He comes with the adage ‘El Loco’ which is Spanish for The Mad One. It is surprising, therefore, when one actually sees Marcelo Bielsa – a soft-spoken man with kind eyes, usually relaying information to his players during practice or in a match. One does not expect him to be the aggressive, deranged and in-your-face that is expected from someone of his calibre. His former players describe him as extremely particular, detail-oriented, fairly stubborn in his ways, perfectionist and intense. They seem to remember him rather fondly even though his training sessions have ended in them vomiting or collapsing from exhaustion.
For me, my love for Bielsa comes from his understanding of human emotions. He has said that he understands his responsibility is crucial because there are people who get happiness from the game which they do not get from other aspects of life. When I heard him say it, it hit me like a lightning bolt! He was talking about me! I was lead to Marcelo at a time when I had next to nothing in life bringing me any joy. Football was a surprising exception. And here was a man with so much to teach me about leading the life I am meant to be living. He found his love in training and coaching players and stuck to it like nothing else. I have often wondered how his family feels about his all-consuming love affair with football. Are they as impressed with him as I am? Do they love him for his work like I do?
I find myself religiously following everything Marcelo does. Should he start a cult, I would gladly follow. Through his work, he has taught me the importance of having a rigorous work ethic, doing my absolute best and understanding the importance of what I do. I am yet to figure out what my true calling in life is, but I am implementing his ideology and seeing great success already. He has truly changed my life for the better.
Here’s what another dear football manager has to say about him:
To be loved is this biggest title, bigger than the Champions League or Premier League or whatever. To be loved is the most important thing and I think Marcelo has that more than any other manager in the world.
– Pep Guardiola
How absolutely true Pep is! I love Marcelo Bielsa for everything he stands for – his character, passion, grit and enigmatic personality. He has left a deep and beautiful mark on my life, and I love him for it.
Are you keen on finding out who I’m writing about in today’s post? Oh, hell yes! Let’s do this!
Jamie Vardy is a powerful demigod whose legacy is going to stand the test of time. Even if you aren’t a football (soccer for you American readers) fan, there is a good chance you have heard of the Premier League being won by Leicester City FC in the 2015-16 season. That magical season brought us this magical man. The star-studded Premiere League which has become infamous for being the playground for financially-expansive teams saw the silent entry of Leicester City and its unimaginable challenge for the title. How often do you hear a story like this? The bookies set the odds at 5,000 to 1.
The beginning of the story is rather grim for Vardy, and since I have not read his autobiography yet, I cannot tell you specific details. I know that he was arrested for assault and had to make do with an ankle bracelet while he was playing football. However, I do know that he is the definition of underdog. Of late, his recent career has been dotted with accolades and its importance is heightened when juxtaposed with his early life. I cannot help but admire men who have understood their inner calling and pursue it against absolutely all odds. What else could explain him working day and night (in a factory, among other places) to supplement his love for playing the beautiful game?
His life was full of people who doubted his ability – sometimes because of his small stature and other times just because the world of sport is filled with nay-sayers. What I love about Jamie’s story is that he has learnt how to deal with those who doubt him. Would you believe me if I told you that people have doubted him even after he has proved himself to be the best goalscorer in the Premier League for multiple seasons? He’s called a one-season-wonder sometimes and how absolutely incorrect it is!
When I see Jamie, I see a man who has hardened over time and turned all insults into fuel. There is an element of patience in him that serves as a wonderful lesson for those of us who think that there is no time for us to reach the pinnacle of our abilities. Or that things will not take a turn for the better. There is always, always hope. We may not get where we want to, and people’s expectations from us may be monumental, but there is always hope.
What an absolute privilege it has been knowing that I can watch him play every week. Just turn on the TV and there he is spreading his magic and making us believe in fairytales.
All my fondest love,
I figured that I should write a little more often and use this space to describe my newfound love: the world of football. I have decided that I could spend the next week writing about the people who in the last one year have inspired me, moved me and change my life. I picked Mendy yesterday for his charm and life-affirming positivity. Today. I pick Jürgen Klopp.
To those of us who are already introduced to this charismatic man, there is no doubt of his effect on people. While his man-management style has caught attention – and oh my god, what a splendid manager he is- I think what I love about him is his resilience against adversity. All kinds of adversity. He has faced insane levels of criticism and has met it all with his grin and roaring laughter. The first ever football-related book I read was on Klopp, and my, what a story his life has been! I don’t know if you know, but there used to be a time when he was called a serial bottler (to think of where he has risen from, I’d say being called a bottler is an absolute privilege, but that is a topic for another day).
Now, imagine a hypothetical situation for me: You are the manager of a Bundesliga 2 club where you miss the promotion spot to the Bundesliga 1 by ONE POINT. Tough. If you have the mentality for it, you probably analyse your style and find ways to improve yourself. You try again, because you absolutely must give it your all. So you do it all again for another year. Another chance at making it Germany’s top division. But on the last day of the season, your team loses automatic promotion again. This time, it’s because of goal difference. I ask you now, kind reader, what would you do in such a situation? How would you cope? Could you cope? Do you have it in you to come out of another year of a narrow (so freaking narrow) miss? I can tell you I would not. When I read about it in the book, I cried. I wept bitter tears because I could not comprehend how someone had the strength, the capacity – the resilience – to do what he did.
Excerpt From: Raphael Honigstein’s book titled Bring the Noise: The Jürgen Klopp Story:
Klopp cried bitter tears in the dressing room. ‘Our life’s dream has been destroyed,’ he said, ashen-faced.” In Berlin, the Mainz players and coaching stuff drowned their non-promotion sorrows in the team hotel ‘until the sun came up’, Sandro Schwarz says. ‘We said that we somehow had to turn the mood on its head, to transform the sadness into some kind of euphoria for the next season.’ Schwarz remembers arriving at the Mainz train station and being surprised that there were a couple of hundred fans there, greeting the team with flags and banners: ‘You used to be able to walk through the city with nobody caring. It was only then that we realised that the supporters were really behind us. The day after, that deep sadness was gone, replaced by a real fighting spirit, with Klopp leading from the front.
With Klopp, I realised that the only right thing to do with each failure is get back up and fight it. Sure, the problem will evolve and get stronger but so will you. You truly can choose to laugh about your impediments and do your best – your absolute, vert best – to overcome it. You might be wondering what happened to Klopp. He ended up coaching the team that became the Champions of Europe and England in two seasons. What a victory! What a man!
All my fondest love,
Tonight is the first year anniversary of the very first (complete) football match I ever watched! Now, I had watched a little bit of important matches such as the World Cup finals, buuuuuut I never did cheer for any team. Last year, I watched the Champions League match between Liverpool and Salzburg. I absolutely fell in love. Madly in love.
I feel blessed to have football in my life. It has changed my life beyond comprehension. It has made me happier, given me a purpose and – this is a big one – filled my weekends with plans. I am never idle on weekends now. I am never without something to read. I am always looking for news and tweets about favourite and rival teams. And I absolutely love how the world of football is full of celebrities I can respect and adore.
Oooooh, I watched Erling and Mo in the first match a year ago and remember being so freaking star-struck. How had this world evaded me for so long? My brother has been a Gunner for nearly six years now, so why was my introduction to this beautiful game so delayed? Oh, well, let’s not dwell into my past life – and it is indeed a past life, a different era. I am reborn and completely different now. And it all began with Benjamin Mendy.
Mendy will always be my first love in football. The lad has given me a few reasons to worry in the past year buuuuut nothing can make me complain about him. He has inspired me, changed me so fundamentally that I cannot imagine living my life like I did before. His childhood stories and his time in France and Manchester are a part of my life. He taught me that no matter how much we try, sometimes, things do not go our way – and that is okay! We need to cultivate the winning mentality even when we are down – especially when we are down. Injuries, personal setbacks and professional decline cannot determine our future – only our mentality can.
I love Mendy like an elder brother who deserves respect, admiration and endless….love. He is my left back, the very light of my life. Also, I think he is the Archbishop of Banter-bury but that’s something I will discuss another time haha!
All my fondest love,
I hope you are well and that happy. I write to you from slightly troubling times. Only slightly, though. My first season of watching football (soccer, for you Americans) has officially come to an end. The prestigious Champions League will not see further participation from Manchester City FC this season. We get out in the quarter finals.
It has been difficult and hard to process. The boys are capable of such wonderful things, but something did not click yesterday. It just….didn’t work out for us this year. And what a year it has been! Oh, lord, I feel like I have aged a couple of years in one day, and at least a decade in the past few months.
What is one to do when one comes across trying times like this? I suggest we look at what we have done well, analyse and learn from our mistakes, and seek strength in all arenas of life. We are all one family, and together, we will trudge through anything that comes our way.
A little blue,