From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.34 :: NO.39 :: Sep. 29, 2011

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FOOTBALL / LET'S BE FRANK

Money talks louder than heritage

If, 27 years ago, when Manchester City were finishing fourth in a Division Two that Chelsea were crowned champions of, someone had suggested the pair would be amongst a quartet of English clubs vying for European supremacy alongside Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Inter and AC Milan, the reaction would have been similar to that which greeted Asamoah Gyan's exit from Wearside. Over to Simon Stone.

AP

Asamoah Gyan being introduced at Al Ain.

When Steve Bruce claimed Asamoah Gyan's “head had been turned” during the summer, we knew what he meant.

When Gyan turned up in the United Arab Emirates and declared himself “ready for the challenge” of playing for Al Ain, we sniggered into our sleeves.

Unless there is a hitherto unknown link between a footballer from Ghana and Abu Dhabi, the reason for Gyan's move is obvious. It comes in the form of a bulging bank balance.

A few weeks earlier, Samuel Eto'o, once of Barcelona and Inter Milan, eschewed the advances of Manchester City and opted to sign for Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala, who are now eyeing up Fabio Capello as their manager post Euro 2012.

This, let it be remembered, is a team so dysfunctional they must get their players in from their training base in Moscow because it is too dangerous to live where the team plays, nestled as it is in Dagestan, near war-torn Chechnya.

Both moves have been dismissed as freaks. Yet those who ignore them do so at their peril.

Manchester City made their UEFA Champions League bow. Twenty-four hours earlier, Chelsea defeated Bayer Leverkusen in the same competition.

If, 27 years ago, when City were finishing fourth in a Division Two that Chelsea were crowned champions of, someone had suggested the pair would be amongst a quartet of English clubs vying for European supremacy alongside Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Inter and AC Milan, the reaction would have been similar to that which greeted Gyan's exit from Wearside.

For whatever reason, Sheikh Mansour and Roman Abramovich decided they wanted to change the course of history and have proved willing to spend enough to make it happen.

We live in strange times. In the same way English football's old order has changed, so the global financial table has altered radically too.

China has money. So does Russia. And India and Brazil for that matter. The oil rich Middle East has been wealthy for a long time. Only now are they working to a plan in terms of how it should be spent.

Gyan and Eto'o are merely extreme examples of what has always been the case. The best footballers will gravitate towards the places which offer them the greatest rewards.

The Middle East lacks Europe's footballing kudos. In 2022 however, the region will host a World Cup.

Anzhi are gatecrashers in a league that has never supplied a European Cup winner. Its geography currently makes it unstable.

Yet these “projects” are written off at their peril.

It might not get you everything but in football, money can buy a heck of a lot.

* * *

Sir Alex Ferguson's description of Wayne Rooney as “the white Pele” came in a week his star striker began by scoring his second successive hat-trick and will end by lining up against a Chelsea side for whom Fernando Torres could well be on the bench.

Twelve months ago, Rooney was in the doldrums after a woeful World Cup. So was Torres, who admittedly did collect a winners' medal, but only after being ushered out of a Spain team to which he had previously been integral.

Subsequently, Rooney demanded a transfer, regretted it, signed a new contract and set about restoring his reputation, a task which is now complete.

Torres kept his mouth shut, jumped at the chance of leaving Liverpool, awaited an improvement and found things got worse, in that he still didn't score and he also had to carry around a GBP50million price tag. Football being what it is, Torres could easily make himself a hero again at Old Trafford on Sunday.

But with each passing game, the one-time free-scoring striker looks like an expensive liability in a side not geared up to cater for his strengths.

That is a shame. Whether at Chelsea, or somewhere else, Torres needs to rediscover his mojo. He is simply too good to allow himself just to fade away.

* * *

It may have got lost amid the UEFA Champions League frenzy but Otis Roberts has this week been confirmed as the August winner of the Barclays Community Sports Award.

Roberts is chief executive of the Jason Roberts Foundation, created by the Blackburn striker, which aims to provide opportunities for young people in the UK and the Caribbean to participate in structured sporting activity - to improve health and fitness, self esteem, confidence and social inclusion.

Roberts has championed this cause, but not in a pushy, showy way, having quietly gone about his business, using his own experiences and sporting mindset to provide a better use of time for others, who will never reach the same levels, either of finance or fitness.

In a world where an insatiable demand for gossip exists, where high-profile players routinely fail to live up to their neatly cultivated images, Roberts' Foundation is one of many that provide a very welcome antidote to the stereotype of the modern player.

© PA Sport, 2011, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, re-written, re-distributed or commercially exploited. Sportstar is not responsible for any inaccuracy in the material.



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