Football – the greatest sport of all time. A game of unity, passion and dedication. Or is it? It is an undeniable fact to everyone that football has become rather commercial in the past decade. Commercialism has driven football to the point where players, managers and owners have forgotten what is right and what is wrong. The sense of playing for the game itself was gone. The one thing that brought people together every Saturday afternoon somehow vanished. That pure dose of admiration disappeared.
On rare occasions nowadays we witness individual players who cherish and love the game as much as big names like Ronaldinho, Totti, Gerrard once did. In 2017 we witnessed unbelievable series of multi-million transfer offers, many of which became reality. No regulations broken, no fair play rules neglected. Ever since the record-breaking €222 million Neymar signing, football has become more about the money and less about the respect. From many fans’ point of view players devolved from idols to puppets, giants to pawns. There are many reasons that this has happened. The first thing to point out is that many owners in today’s football have an immeasurable bank accounts and no remorse for smaller teams. They do as they please. Creating to a certain extent false teams, lacking any character or will to play – which gives an example to others.
Once a player gets the feeling of being the star in a team, the ‘salary’ talks begin. It is beyond belief that Carlos Tevéz earns £615,000 which is around £32 million a year. One of the greatest footballers of all time Ronaldinho was bought by Barcelona for €30 million in 2004. And the most important question comes up – does money make you a better player? Is it plausible that money is motivation for many. Money clouds your judgement, especially as football players are easily tempted. The owners of the clubs are ready to jump in the fire, to higher the stakes, without even considering what disadvantages it may bring. Some 5 hours before the transfer market closed this September many clubs were prepared to buy players whose names we never knew existed in modern football. For €70 million or so Arsenal were on the verge of signing Thomas Lemar from Monaco. A 21 year-old player with 15 professional matches played. Moved from Caen to Monaco in 2013 for £3.4m. Four years later, without any backup plan Arsenal would have bought him for a record price. It’s not how transfers used to work, not anymore. Just another talent. Five-six years ago it would not have been known to pay €70 million for an almost unknown player. This is a loud and clear message that football transforms with each season. Maybe some years have to pass until we know if it is for good or bad.
It could be argued that social media, the constant need of being online, promoting new boots or a pair of underwear has a negative influence on the players as well. It as if there isn’t enough time for training as much as there is for Instagram and Snapchat. If that is the case, then players are better off injured than being on the pitch thinking of something else. Statistics say plenty. The Emirates Stadium is sold out for every Arsenal game. Even when the stadium is half empty, tickets were sold and judging by the owners’ behaviour they are satisfied. Even when protests occurred last year after a series of poor performances by the team, nobody stepped down. On the contrary, fans were ignored, the stadium remained sold out. Despite yesterday’s Arsenal board meeting, the owners found themselves amongst unhappy fans. Stan Kroenke (Arsenal major shareholder) stood silent…1-0 for the board. Alexis Sanchez scored 30 goals throughout the season. Until the very last minute he wanted a sum of about £400,000 per week or he wouldn’t sign a new contract. Complete and utter disrespect towards the club and it’s traditions. The situation is controversial and difficult to deal with. Arsenal is just one of the many examples of what is happening with football and how discontent the fans feel.
Poor management and bad decisions – this could be the opening line for every football commentary across Europe. Mark Noble urging West Ham players to ‘wear the shirt with pride’ and at the same time football is becoming more and more artificial and theatrical than it ever was. The lack of discipline both from managers and players is driving the sport to an unknown territory. What if the €222 million for Neymar is just the beginning? What are the fans supposed to expect in this ‘eventual’ crisis with football in the future? €500 million for a 18 year-old wonder kid? And while fans are outside the stadiums protesting, many big club owners will continue mocking football.
This is what football fans around the Emirates Stadium had to say to Voice Of London Sport after the Carabao Cup game against Norwich (24/10/17).
Words: Nikolay Kolev | Subbing: Asllan Gecaj