Carlos Tevez has been castigated this week for his refusal to play in Munich but he's not to blame reckons ex-Middlesbrough and Wolves midfielder Mark Burke.
This week the football community has been in a real tizz over the refusal of Carlos Tevez to come on for thirty minutes in the Champions League for Mnchester City against Bayern Munich and rightly so, most would say. His actions are obviously unacceptable; you are paid to play football and if you refuse then obviously you are in the wrong. Unbelievably in the wrong.
Tevez is claiming a misunderstanding. We never really know what happens in these cases but it’s interesting to talk about this as it confirms people’s suspicions that footballers are getting much too big for their boots.
I look at it from another angle and there is a part of me that understands Tevez’s actions, not accepting or condoning ,but understanding.
Within the football bubble life is very different and this is what the outside world cannot see and cannot understand.
To refuse to do your job in any other walk of life would lead to instant dismissal, no question, but football is different as we all know. Any player will tell you, in a club a valuable player can more or less do what he likes, as long as he performs.
Football, like any top sport, has its own laws that are written and unwritten. Anyone who has been in it for a long period will tell you that certain things that occur in the game would be questionable in other walks of life and the fact is when you enter the football bubble, and are in there for a long period, real life seems a long way away especially today when the players are insulated at the top levels.
Every time a player presses those four numbers at the ATM machine he still has to pinch himself that somebody is paying him these amounts. But here lies the rub: like in any walk of life, if you do something every day, you get used to it. If you receive a certain amount of money every month, every year, the extraordinary becomes the ordinary.
When people say to me its ridiculous what players earn I say maybe it is, maybe it isn’t but with the amount that it is paid into the game isn’t it logical that most of it goes to the players? There are only two things that really count in football; players and fans, and you can’t really pay the fans can you?
What were you getting up to on a night out? Admit it, you were a daft lad who didn’t know his backside from his elbow.
I also argue when they complain about player’s behaviour on and off the pitch and I give them a scenario – remember when you were twenty years old, think about it, what were you doing? Where were you living? What were you getting up to on a night out? Admit it, you were a daft lad who didn’t know his backside from his elbow.
What mistakes did you make? Do you remember? Well, hold that thought and now I am going to give you, that daft twenty year old, fifty thousand pounds per week. PER WEEK. Then I’m going to, a bit like Al Pacino as the devil in the film Devils Advocate, make most women attracted to you, irrespective of your physical qualities, give you a level of fitness every man would dream of and that you will never attain again, endless stamina (comes in handy off the pitch) every man who sees you wants to be you, and for all of this all you are obliged to do is apply yourself for two hours maximum per day and when that’s finished the day is yours.
Now then, how does that feel? Do you think you may become a little detached from reality? (I know about the pressure of performance and the cut throat nature of the game and how quickly the game moves on to the new kid is in town to take your place but that’s to talk about another day)
Do you think you might make a few errors of judgement? Say the wrong thing to a journalist? Come in a little later than you should? Drink a little more than you should on the odd occasion? Do the wrong thing with the wrong girl?
Of course you will, because you did! Only you didn’t do it with all that money in your pocket and people in your face. I am actually amazed that so few footballers do the ‘wrong’ thing when you look at what they receive at such a young age, a person of prestige in their own society that most have to work twenty years for before they reach such status. I think players can be very proud that the majority of their profession behave as they do.
Tevez is thinking about the blow to his pride – his professional pride, his ego.
Carlos Tevez is a world class player who has been used to this skewed reality for many years now; the world he lives in bears no relation to his ‘old’ life, real life, or indeed to the life of top footballers even as short a time as twenty years ago.
When you have been playing football as long as you can remember, when it is as natural as breathing and that is denied you, you are not thinking about the money, very few footballers actually think about money when playing the game, although that’s hard to believe its true. They just want to play and win, the money is the cushion when the heat has died down.
Tevez is thinking about the blow to his pride – his professional pride, his ego. Who is this to deny me my right, my right to play football? All I want to do is play!!! Its children in big bodies, which is what us men are, we stay children forever and footballers are probably worse than most because playing football prolongs that youth, every day is an extension of the classroom with all its jokes, p**s takes, stories, intrigues, rivalries and all this with none of the boring bits you used to have at school.
Sitting on the bench in Munich Tevez feels as aggrieved as a Sunday morning park player who has been dropped from the team and feels he is better than the players on the pitch.
From the moment the team has been announced and he is not in it, in his head the world has changed, he feels humiliated, cheated, disrespected. Thoughts of money do not enter his head now, only the fact that when the team runs out he will walk to the bench, sit down and watch the game start without him.
He will look at the managers back as he walks up and own the line and secretly curse him, hate him and inside boil with frustration. This is not rotation, rested for the next game, this is the manager saying that the team is better without him and no matter how much the player earns this is hard to take.
There is a general sense of a lost world, a world where football was a game of the people, by the people, for the people
We are at a time, especially in England where the main topic surrounding football is money. Not the game, not the tactics, but the money in the game and especially the money paid to the players.
Everybody is shaking their heads and talking about how obscene it is that the players earn these figures. In a short space of time the game has changed beyond all recognition; the players have changed, at least in the perceptions of the fans, the league has changed becoming more and more a money table, the more money you spend the higher you finish. There is a general sense of a lost world, a world where football was a game of the people, by the people, for the people, now they feel like bystanders watching some invisible giant hand slowly but surely edge them out of the picture, a necessary evil to be tolerated but not indulged.
Most fans are becoming apathetic towards their team’s chances, knowing that unless they spend massive sums they are doomed to mediocrity. I obviously can only speak from my own experience, as we all can, but I bet when you have your next conversation about the game it will be thirty seconds before somebody mentions money and the evil it spreads in the game.
This is all relevant to the Tevez incident because this has engendered bitterness and resentment towards footballers and why it has sparked such debate. I sense a real, deep resignation from real football fans or maybe I should say fans of a certain age that have lived through that rubicon crossing moment when Sky entered the game and changed it forever.
He will know, now that he made a massive, massive, massive mistake, and turned people against him, and given the manager no choice, that he has to leave. But does he?
Football is the most unbelievable bubble where the villain one day can be the hero the next, they say in politics that it takes eleven days for a crisis to be swept off the front pages and football is no different.
If Tevez and his ‘advisers’ were to go on a PR offensive (probably using a real PR company these days) apologised profusely, swear blind that things were misconstrued, lost in translation (that old favourite of overseas players when they want to criticise the club but don’t want to get fined), appealed to the fans, professed his love for the club, the city, the players and even the manager, ideally scored the winner in the next derby, then the fans of his club, who are now filling the airwaves and internet chat sites (another bubble that is a weird offshoot and has its own rules and customs) with bile and venom about his behaviour may well say, “oh well, he’s made a mistake, he’s said sorry, lets get behind him, after all he is still one of ours isn’t he?”
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