A COFFIN STOOD stiff and isolated in the bowels of the Nou Camp as 11 Irishmen shuffled past in quiet disbelief.
It is frightening the rate at which our childhood heroes are retiring from football – slowly descending away from the turf, slipping out from the present and into a deep-sea of nostalgia that is as lucid as it is warm in our abiding memories of them.
The art of diplomacy, it is said, is to recognise the beliefs, opinions and feelings of other people and to balance them accordingly with those of their opponents – breeding it itself an air of open communication based on mutual respect and rational understanding.
GONE ARE THE DAYS WHEN CHILDREN would take to the muddy patch of turf outside their homes for an unceasing summerfest of relenting, unending football.
Many days of many childhoods were littered with the laughter and crocodile tears, gashed knees and hurt egos of playing makeshift football, street football, out of what could be gathered.
Nothing lasts forever. If a footballer’s legacy to the game is to be summed up in their farewell game or testimonial, then they and the fans that try to imprint some lasting legacy on their beloved hero, will always fall short.
Time passes by so quickly in football. The name Gerardo Martino has largely vanished from mainstream media despite the fact he is manager of the Argentinian national team. It was at this stage twelve months ago that his FC Barcelona team had limped aimlessly out of the UEFA Champions League at the quarter final stage – the first time the Catalans had not reached the competition’s semi-finals in six seasons.
“My dear boy, the people who only love once in their lives are really the shallow people. What they call their loyalty, and their fidelity, I call either the lethargy of custom or their lack of imagination. Faithfulness is to the emotional life what consistency is to the life of the intellect—simply a confession of failures.”
– Oscar Wilde, the Picture of Dorian Gray
The last year has seen the conclusion of countless footballer’s careers. As is the same with every year. Some, amateurs playing in lower divisions. Others may have made it as a mid-ranking professional. These men may retire in an aftermath of overwhelming regret – what could have been; what should have been won; what should have been if not for a lapse of determination or self-belief. But despite this, their retirement is their own. They took the decision to enter the world of football on their own accord and likewise, have decided to end it as they see fit.