Welcome to The Final Ball Blog! This is where we’ll have weekly a weekly detailed insight into the last week of sport for those of you who just couldn’t live by only listening to us for an hour a week!
And we’ll start off with a monumental clash of two greats: LeBron James vs Zlatan Ibrahimović. Now as a fan of both, it can be very difficult to want to take sides, especially following Zlatan’s behaviour with Romelu Lukaku in recent weeks. It is starting to feel like an unconscious bias is creeping out of him (I don’t want to hear any defence from his black friends or colleagues). Maybe he doesn’t realise he’s doing it, or he doesn’t understand what people like LeBron, Lewis Hamilton & Naomi Osaka represent for our culture. They’re not speaking because they have an interest in politics, they’re speaking because they have an interest in the impact of political decisions that impact the black community on a global scale. Zlatan does seem like an unserious candidate that will speak to whoever will listen but, in this case, maybe he’s the one that needs to “shut up and dribble”
Keeping on the unconscious bias theme, I want to discuss the overwhelming desire (especially in this country) for people to humbly work ourselves to the bone and let this be the only way of aspiring to getting any recognition in this life, something that I like to call; Coloniser’s Mentality. A world where we should appreciate existing within a space and graft until every organ starts to bleed before we can clamour for any sort of praise or reward. It’s a mindset of society and ingrained in the everyday workplace but it’s place in football has elevated to something that leads to some of the unwarranted hate that gets given to anyone that has a decent haircut, or stay loyal to an institution for the rest of your life. Players now live a life that fits with the modern day; it’s about tik-tok and branding just as much as training. You have to appeal to the younger generation and peak their interest, and that infuriates the older ones. You also have to think about both physical & mental health.
There was a time when players aspired to wrap bandages around the volcano pouring out of their head, but we’re now shocked at the amount of players that have come out with dementia and other long-term illnesses. Pundits used to be disgusted at players that pull out of challenges but are now the same ones disappointed in how Jack Wilshere’s career has gone. Remember when Raheem Sterling “rejected 100k a week”, and was labelled as greedy? It turns out that the only thing that he was greedy for was trophies, something that everything should aspire to achieve. Isn’t that why they play the game? And yet, for years, even as an England international, he suffered years of abuse in the terraces and the media, and until the pandemic eradicated the crowd factor, he didn’t seem to enjoy going back to Anfield. The fans saltiness to his decisions led to more pressure on Jordon Ibe to be his replacement, increasing external pressure on someone who already living his academy career as “the next Sterling”. As pressure increased, mental health diminished and once the club decided that he wasn’t going to be at that level, he was quickly chucked on the scrapheap that has led to a downward spiral that is a lot more common than people think (Frank Nouble, Cherno Samba, Marvin Sordell etc).
Think of the endless abuse that Jesse Lingard has suffered for the past few years, someone who was a great, loyal servant to Manchester United, played as good as anyone else for a few years, contributed massively in terms of branding and merchandise for the club, which ultimately led to his massive contract. All of a sudden, the love evaporated, and this coincided with personal issues in his life. Even when it became public, his treatment didn’t really change. People believe what they see on the surface, and as long as you don’t adhere to rules set by Roy Keane & co, abuse is coming your way. The point that I’m trying to make here is why bother giving your life, mind and body to people that don’t appreciate it? It’s taken Jesse 5 minutes at West Ham for people to realise that he is the same guy that scored in cup finals and a World Cup. Maybe we as fans don’t have an understanding to why people get paid so well. The benefits of different types of characters within this new football world. Maybe decisions are made by both parties that is more than what comes on the screen every weekend.
So, I say to Jesse, Paul Pogba, Mesut Ozil & anybody else that catches the vigorous heat of social media platforms; don’t ever questions why you’re getting paid that much. Everything is a hustle in this life, and for what you guys go through, this is no different