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Michel Platini's obligation
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-07-28 08:51:47
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Michel Platini used to be a football player and a good one, which in football nowadays translates into an expensive one. The man enjoyed everything nationally and internationally and there isn’t a football trophy he didn’t touch, which again nowadays translates into all the major football clubs wanting him on their squad. And they want him at any cost. Teams such as Inter, Napoli, Arsenal, Valencia and Barcelona all wanted him, with Juventus being the winner.

His transfer from Saint-Étienne to Italian Juventus in 1982 saddened the fans of the French team, but in the end it was all about money and when it comes to sports we must remember that these players have an expiry date. So they must do the best they can in the shortest time possible. And this is fair. It is fair from the minute football is not amateurish anymore, but a game for professionals with very high demands put on them, especially when the players are doing championships like Platini did, like Russ did, and like Ronaldo does! Actually, Cristiano Ronaldo might be the exception that proves the rule, because according to the rule, most of these people started playing football when they were young, very young, but they were selected for a team when they were sixteen or seventeen, and then it took them another ten years to establish themselves and hone their talent. After this they have another five years to make the money and the reputation that will help them live for the rest of their lives. You see, out of the thousands of players that play for the national leagues, not all of them can become coaches or trainers, actually only very few. The rest have to find other ways to survive, most of the time not very glamorous ways.

Remember that we are talking about thousands of players, where the Platinis and Ronaldos are the exceptions. Also, football is not like playing chess. It is a dangerous game where accidents happen, vicious bad accidents. Accidents that destroy careers. Out of the thousands of players I mentioned before, hundreds of them see their career finishing because of a wrong kick, because of a stupid push, because the field was in bad condition.  The accident means the end of a career, most of the time one step before moving to the big league, before getting to the money and the insured future. And then, the end! All the dreams, the efforts, the lifestyle are dead! What’s the common reaction? It’s a game! No! It’s not a game, it’s not a hobby, it’s not for personal pleasure, and that’s why it’s called professional football. I should write this in bold fonts, because I think that most of the time we forget this.

We forget that Cristiano Ronaldo is a bright and rare exception among thousands, if not millions of young kids all around the world. These kids see their professional future in the leather ball, investing all their time and sacrificing hundreds of small and big things, including families and pleasures. Instead we see Cristiano Ronaldo kissing Paris Hilton somewhere in Las Vegas and the untalented David Beckham dining with Tom Cruise!

To do any job you must have some kind of talent. An engineer can understand engines and a graphic designer can paint. If something happens to them, the state is there to support them – it doesn’t matter how small or big this support might be – and help. But when it comes to athletes, it seems that everybody, literally everybody is blinded by the bright flashes of David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo and the other …exceptions. You see, in sports and especially in football, everybody thinks that the exception is the rule. The same thing happens in all sports; in basketball people see Magic Johnson and in volleyball Steve Timmons, and the names might come from other decades but you know what I mean. The reason I talk about football is because it is the most popular sport all around the world, because it is the sport of the poor – you can see kids playing football in the refugee camps of Darfur and in the cities of Afghanistan. It is also the sport with the most amazing amount of money. An unbelievable amount of money.

Michel Platini knows all this because he was there. He didn’t start from Manchester United like Cristiano Ronaldo, but he had to climb his way up to the glory and the money. And he saw what happens with the other players, he was there when accidents happened and he was there when careers ended in one game. He knows what it is like to be considered professional, but dealt with as a hobbyist, and he knows well how it is when everybody thinks that you are millionaire just because the team spent millions on adding you to their squad, but still left you with pennies. Apparently he knows this very well. He lived it!

Michel Platini is the president of UEFA since July 2006, the powerful Union of European Football Associations. He did try to make some changes, but he hasn’t made the critical change; the one that would protect the dignity of the sport and the athletes. He is there, watching and making soft comments about the disappointment regarding the provocative transfers and the money involved with football nowadays. But this is his golden moment; these transfers and the unbelievable money spent is his chance to take control and change everything and three years just …watching and suggesting is enough if he wants to do something about the sport everybody loves. It is his obligation, not only because he is the president of UEFA but because he has been there!

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Alexandra Pereira2009-07-28 14:10:08
Actually just a note to say that Cristiano Ronaldo didn't start from Manchester United either - he started as part of a big and poor, still very close, family and kicking a leather ball in some of the poorest neighbourhoods of the beautiful island of Madeira, in the Atlantic ocean (it's just that sometimes he seems to forget that, probably because he's still really young... I hope).
Soon he caught the eye of his manager, in a very small football team over there. Madeira and its neighbour island of Porto Santo happen to be a place where people related with football (some players, managers, club presidents) like to go on vacation, at least for some days in the Summer. A talent-researcher from Sporting Lisbon happened to see this kid play in several matches of his very small team over there - he was still very young back then. In early adolescence, Ronaldo had to leave his native island and his entire family behind to make further tests in Lisbon - they wanted him to be part of Sporting's Academy immediately. So he stayed living, eating, studying, breathing and training there - apart from his family at a very young age (he wouldn't see them but once a year, or even less than that). He was one of the very few who was selected to stay - along the years, most of his companions were sent away or never managed to be chosen by great teams.

Alexandra Pereira2009-07-28 14:35:52
I think that the fact that he had to grow up, be responsible while away from his family (close people tell that he spent the first years in Lisbon crying often because of missing home and his family, while at the same time he had great ambitions) and follow such strict schedules and routines so early in his life might have something to do with his silly behaviour as a young adult. But at the same time the boy shows some strong will - one of his main motivations to become "the best in the world" was always, since he was a 14/15 year-old, "to help his family" (maybe because he also felt guilty for leaving them behind), something which he has managed to do in great style (he couldn't have helped more than he has the lives and careers of his brothers and sisters, parents, cousins, uncles, close friends and so on). But I think it's time for Ronaldo to start helping the world and other human beings as well.

Alexandra Pereira2009-07-28 14:59:11
He actually managed to take his whole family and close friends out of poverty - he's a hero for them. He helped his sister to record albums, because her dream was to become a singer. All his brothers, sisters and cousins have houses/flats (a decent place where to live), cars (some comfort and freedom to move around, in a place where public transports are not very good) and jobs (most of the times, the job they dreamt of) thanks to him. He saved the life of his mother, who had cancer, and tried by all means to save the life of his dad as well, but unfortunately in the end he was not successful - something which, I imagine, must have been tremendously frustrating for him, who's used to win all the time (he had to face the fact that he couldn't win against death, even if he was hiring the best specialists and clinics in the world). For a while he saw Sir Alex Ferguson as a substitute father. But now Ronaldo made the mourning of his father and probably wants more to become a father himself than to have a substitute father who is not the real one, that he lost. The boy is growing, and he has to grow (meanwhile he has some regression episodes in LA). Since his finances allowed him to, he always wanted to be surrounded by his family and close friends, while working and on vacation as well. He knows where he's going - but now it's time to start helping human beings more broadly.

Alexandra Pereira2009-07-28 15:12:25
Meanwhile, he had to go through a serious heart surgery himself, when he was, I think, only 15 (and he moved to Lisbon alone at the age of 11), otherwise he could have died while playing - but he preferred the surgery because he wanted so badly "to become the best, so he could help his family".

Thanos2009-07-28 22:03:51
Thanks for the informations, still with the reasons you mentioned Ronaldo has equally many reasons with Platini to do something to change what's going on in football especially the last decade. And we must never forget that the 90+ millions that were spent for his transfer very little will go to him, the rest will go to the pockets of the MU share holders. Actually Ronaldo from a human with work a professional has transferred into a product with a price!

Alexandra Pereira2009-07-28 22:38:30
Sure, you're right about that.
Still I think he knows it better than anyone, and since he was a little boy. His first manager was... his father - that's why to some extent he saw Alex Ferguson as a father too.
His childhood dream was to play for Real Madrid anyway. He's going to earn 20 euros per second even when he's not working - and that is more than many people will ever dream to earn throughout their lives. It increases his responsibilities too - he should be more aware of that. Of course his and Paris were simply marketing strategies working together for the benefit of one and the other. I just wish that he would do something good and truly fruitful - if not for football, at least for the world, or to help poor kids, as he once was one of them and he knows that life can be pretty tough.

Alexandra Pereira2009-07-28 23:01:13
Also, I sincerely hope that he doesn't become a victim of all this (that would honestly be a shame, if not a crime). He's still too young - I'm not sure if he can handle all this hysteria around him appropriately. It's natural that he will try to escape and forget it often. He will go for night drinks and then he will drive his fast cars. That's not a good combination. Somebody should inspire him and advise him to find a sense in helping others, besides his family (don't know if he would listen, but someone should try it). I think people like Figo have tried it.

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