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Let's talk about record transfers
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-06-23 10:29:26
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Football is a sport with a huge financial background that the fans often miss. Actually, the fans are often victims of the unbelievable financial games that are played backstage at the huge football grounds. It has been a long time since I wrote anything about sports, and I suppose the reason was that it has been another disappointing year for Panathinaikos – the team I support – and Newcastle United – the team Asa supports and I was …forced to follow. But looking back at what made this year a disappointing sport year, and perhaps the last few years for both teams, I end up with one thing …money!

Of course as a fan, I question how much money is spent, and I miss the fact that football teams are no longer there to entertain me, but instead it’s all about big business. With executives and marketing directors, share holders and profits, mainly profits, and at the end of the season all that matters for those who own the teams is the profit. The rest of us are just a way to get the profit, and that’s the only reason they still somehow want to keep us happy.

But what really motivated me to think about all of this, and especially about the profits, was the money that was spent on two players from the Spanish team Real Madrid. I’m sorry, but Real Madrid’s almost 160 million euro investment on two players, Ronaldo and Kaká, sounds bananas, and I can’t think of a better way to describe it! The 80 million euro that was paid for Ronaldo’s transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid is the most expensive deal ever made, and I find it difficult to accept. I suppose this is the main reason to why it took me so long to write about it. I mean, how many schools could they build in Manchester or Madrid for this amount of money? How many homeless could get shelter and food?

Do you think I’m irrational? No, I’m not, I’m sad because it all happens in the name of the fans, and I do like football and I consider myself a fan of a team, so I find it insulting that they are using me as an excuse for this provocative act. What’s wrong with these people? And the most amazing thing is that most people think that Ronaldo and Kaká got the money; the two athletes definitely got something good, but the money didn’t go to them. The money went to a group of investors and share holders who calculated how many jerseys the fans will buy if these two players are bought for their team. After long meetings with the marketing team, they found out that they only need to sell a couple of million of jerseys to cover the cost.

But let’s talk about football first, and of course here I express my personal opinion. Football is a team game, and in general the players and their game is a result of a team effect. Ronaldo is a good player, but in my opinion he wouldn’t be a superstar if he wasn’t lucky to have a good football team backing him up; a football team that apparently was built and synchronized thanks to Ferguson focusing on his game. Ronaldo finished the job that ten other players had started in the field. So at least I think that Ronaldo is a good player, but not an exceptional talent. For example when he played for the Portuguese national team, where he wasn’t the centre of everything, he completely failed to show his famous talent. Yes, there are exceptions in the history of football, players that could do anything in the field, like Pele, Charlton, Moore and Johan Cruyff, Mishel Platini, Ian Rush, Mimis Domazos or Franz Beckenbauer and Ferenc Puskás; even Zidane and the constantly unlucky Michael Owen – who for me is one of the biggest English football players that destiny has treated unfairly. But then the exceptions are there to prove the rule, and the rule is that football is a team sport.

Florentino Perez, the president of Real Madrid, could have bought all eleven players for the same money if he wanted to have the glorious Manchester United, but he didn’t want that. He wanted only the Ronaldo trademark, and that’s what makes it …no football! Ronaldo and Kaká have become products without souls and wills, they have become objects and numbers in some kind of memo shared between the shareholders. Football has become charts and columns with profits in some kind of accounting game. But is this the reason to why any of us love football? Is it the reason why we read the newspapers, and let our kids collect cards and posters of their favourite players?

Actually, Florentino Perez did the same thing a few years ago, under the same circumstances, when he brought David Beckham to Real Madrid in a record transfer deal. He toured him all around the world like the elephant man in a circus. Regarding David Beckham, I think exactly the same thing as what I think of Ronaldo: he’s a good player but not a super player, and he definitely isn’t anything compared to players like Moore, Charlton, Rush, Owen or other real unique UK players. He was, and he still is, another clown in the circus.

Last time I wrote about football, I wrote about the provocative owner attitudes and their idea that the fans belong to them. They seem to think that they can do whatever they like with the fans, they manipulate and use them. Well, I believe they are wrong about that. The fans might follow their lead for some time, but the colours of the team are more important to the fans than any Beckham or Ronaldo. And the fans have the power to bring down the owner when they realize that they are the ones who make the accountants and share holders happy with the tickets and franchising sales.

Perhaps it is time for the fans to make a difference and demand an end to this circus and a return to real football, whatever football represents in their hearts. Perhaps the team should spend the 160 millions to build schools and feed homeless in the name of Real Madrid, rather than buy a doubtful product, who apparently currently is visiting Hollywood in a bid to build a similar future to David Beckham. The only thing he’s missing is an anorexic and equally untalented trash celebrity wife to complete the picture. Perhaps football nowadays reflects our society, a society in crisis. I’m not sure, but this 160 million euro transfer definitely shows that there is something wrong!

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Emanuel Paparella2009-06-23 11:09:19
If now we imaginatively extend a bit the metaphor of soccer to the political-economic realm it fits quite well: the EU bureaucracy and political elites think of themselves as the owners of the teams and the electorate, i.e., the fans, belong to them, but indeed, as pointed out in the above article, the fans have the power to bring down the owners, as we are currently seeing in Iran. They also have the power to let the abuse continue by abstaining from voting or protesting in the streets. Much to learn here from the Iranian protesters whether it be soccer or politics.

Whenever I am in Italy and point out to Italians that soccer fanaticism is no common cultural glue or solution to what ails the EU, I am promptly accused of being anti-soccer and sometimes told to go back to America’s football. But that is not true, I like the game when it played well and fairly. But in that rebuke the point is missed and it is the point made in this article: once the game itself is corrupted by money, the goals and the ideals of the game are corrupted too and at that point the fans either become accomplices in the corruption by continuing to support a corrupt system or protest against it and bring down the “owners.”

Clint2009-06-23 11:25:13
Great to read an article that doesn’t have Newcastle and Circus in the same sentence - a rare occurrence these days.
Sad thing is Thanos is that you and I are dinosaurs from a bygone age of football. Does Beckham winning more England caps than Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton make him a better player - absolutely not.
The Media pundits who forecast that England will never again be successful with the number of overseas players in The Prem are eating their words [so far] under our adopted Italian.
Today’s fans certainly here in the UK seem to crave their club being owned by Billionaires as they now link that to success or certainly the chance of success. Disappointment sets in immediately if a new striker doesn’t arrive for £30 million in the summer.
American owners here at Man U, Liverpool and Villa seem to have a successful ethic in adopting a low profile unlike the ******* we have at the Toon who has turned a once proud club into a laughing stock. We wait nervously this week to find out who the new owners will be. Ashley was seen as a hero two years ago arriving as a knight in shining armour, our saviour following the last regime so the fans have to be careful what they wish for. Me I just wish for a sensible owner, a manager called Shearer, a Silver Cup and a £30 million striker. Seems fair to me.

ap2009-06-25 03:02:20
Actually the reason why people say Ronaldo fails in the Portuguese national team is just because... he doesn't earn so much, so he does not make any kind of serious effort! He's not the only one who has done that in the last twenty years, though.
Ronaldo is a brainless kid who feels happy, for now, with parties, fast cars, expensive clothes and mansions, Mediterranean yatchs, tanned (and often fake) girlfriends improvised by his agent and polemic visits to Hollywood - that's a shame indeed. Just think about all the constructive things he could do for other people and this world with the 20 euros which he will earn... per minute. And I just hope he doesn't have any car crash after one of those parties in Spain - sometimes when people become wealthy enough, they think they become immortal too. His latest "best friend" in Los Angeles is just like him and a marketing contract, convenient for both sides (at least Ronaldo's mom can be reassured that this girl isn't after her son's money...ufff! I would be worried about other things though...).

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