What price for your signature, Israel? Loyalty in modern sport





I'm sitting here watching the A League Melbourne Derby. It's a pulsating affair, and actually, for the first time in my life, caused me to turn away from the cricket and on to the soccer. But I spied out the corner of my eye a green arm band nestled on the bicep of one Harry Kewell, previous winner of Australia's most adored footballer, current wastelander. Kewell was born in Smithfield, NSW. He has played for 6 different clubs in 4 countries throughout his career, including a stint at the hometown rivals of the Heart, Melbourne Victory. Furthermore, he hasn't showered himself in glory this season, missing most of it through injury and arguably losing John Aloisi his first win of the season against Sydney FC. So why, I hear you asking, is he captaining this side? 

Is loyalty overrated in todays sporting landscape? Is it a pipe dream, a nostalgic, prehistoric remnant of a time when cricketers played for pride and a free feed, when Rugby legends used to wake up to go to work in the morning then train after knock off, when footballers in Australia were as well paid as a 15 year old at Maccas? Or is it still alive, an angry barnacle that refuses to budge despite all and sundry attacking it with golden crow bars?



Tottenham just sacked their manager, Andre Villas-Boas, after about 18 months in the job. In that time he managed to steer us towards our highest points total in Premier League history, and was given a completely new squad to work wonders with and guide towards Champions League football. The Holy Grail of competitions, which promises a guaranteed 40 million pounds of sweet sweet revenue to participants. AVB couldn't deliver this pay check for his bosses, so he was let go. Sticking with Tottenham, how about we try Gareth Bale on for size? The Premier League is the ultimate test a footballer can face, and at a club like Tottenham his legacy would be platinum plated if he managed to help us to a league title. But instead he packed his bags and jetted off to join his co-pilot on the cash plane Luka Modric. Together they flew the coop to Real Madrid, a side so awash with coin they'd buy the Eiffel Tower if it could play football.



 Football is a fantastic case study, and one Mark Schwarzer provides a wonderful example. A big fish in a big sea at Fulham, he was playing regular first team football, was Australia's premier goal keeper and a hero in the eyes of every local football fan. Then he decided to move to Chelsea. No doubt he tripled his bank balance in a few short weeks, but he did so watching from the stands, and the ultimate casualty was Australian football. Without regular first team footy he couldn't expect to stay at the top of his game, and promptly retired before the World Cup. 

There are countless other examples. Israel Folau would play Badminton for the Ivory Coast if they paid him enough money. Dave Warner was a superstar at the Sydney Thunder, then made a move over to the Sixers when they waved a wad in his face. Then the Thunder picked up a tidy sum of money from NSW Cricket to step their game up, and guess who turned up on their books again.. Blokes like Dirk Nannes are now just freelance cricketers, they spend their years trawling the globe for the latest T20 paycheck, from Zimbabwe to Bangladesh. Premier League football teams are so jam packed with overseas players it's a struggle to get 2 local players on the same pitch together. I hate to use my beloved Spurs again, but look at their Englishmen. Only Walker and Dawson start, and if Kaboul were fit Dawson would be relegated to the bench. One Englishman in a team of 11. Players like Gerrard are so rare you'd get food poisoning if you took a bite out of him. Loyalty? Never heard of it.




Of course I am well aware of the age old argument. Players have a limited life span in their sport. As a landscaper slash roofer slash marketer slash whatever else I call myself, I can work comfortably until I am well in to my 70s. A quick perusal of the oldest players still active in major sports shows a player is lucky if he makes it past 40 in his chosen field. Brad Hogg may be 82 when he finally calls it a day, but for everyone else they have limited utility as a sportsman. This means a short window in which to earn enough cash to tide them over during their retirement phase. Chasing the dollar suddenly becomes more understandable. But it isn't always necessary. For someone like Dirk Nannes, who hasn't earned a huge amount of money in his career, chasing franchises all over the world is understandable. For Mark Schwarzer, who has surely earned enough money to fund the national economy of a few Pacific islands, a move to Chelsea makes less sense. 

Australians pride themselves on loyalty. It's why I'm writing this article, because the current crops attitude towards it is foreign to me. We are brought up on a diet of State of Origin, state cricket and individual sports where humility is prized above all else. Is this now an outdated mindset? Cricket was once the untainted darling of loyalty. You grew up in NSW, you played for NSW, and by extension you got at least 20 test matches. If you grew up in Hobart you cursed your parents for birthing you there, but you never moved. Now, with T20 taking the world on, players are chasing one thing. Money.



Don't roll your eyes at me. I'm trying to make a point. What do we care about? As a die hard sports fan, do you care about your team winning premierships? The manner in which they play? The way they conduct themselves on and off the field? Or the players and coaching staff? Buddy Franklin signed for the Swans for 9 million and you know what? It makes me sick. Sick as a dog. I was already beating my head over the Tippett acquisition. We lost Jesse White, who, despite a late season charge, was always a bit part player. Yet I would rather have him lining up at full forward than Tippett, and I'd rather have Lewis Roberts-Thomson lining up as ruckman than Buddy. Both blokes who were drafted by us, moulded by us, and turned in to damn fine footballers by us. Sydney boys.



It's not that I don't care about premierships, far from it. When we won in 2005 I cried. When we won in 2012 I cried again, and then attempted to open mouth kiss a good friend who was there at the time, that's how passionate I was (he was a bloke and the case is still before the courts. Sorry Andrew). If Tottenham made the freaking Champions League I'd weep just as I did the day Crouch scored against City at 4:30am Sydney time to sneak us in. I want my team to do well, but doesn't the sheen come off a victory that has been bought? Tottenham could sign Messi tomorrow and I'd probably be on board with it. But the way they have swept out the old and brought in the foreign irks me.

Do you care? Is loyalty gone from the modern game? 


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Iggy Azalea is Australia's Most Courageous Rapper

Comprehensive Ranking of Cakes

Australian Arnott's Biscuits, Ranked

Don't Be The Person Who Kills A Cyclist

Placebo's Sleeping With Ghosts is one of the Best Concept Albums of the 2000s

Best Ambient Albums of 2017: First Quarter