It is not often that I am disgusted by something that happens in the football world. As anyone who has read this column before will know, I absolutely love the game and am very defensive towards the people who play it.
I have tried to defend player behaviour on and off the pitch. I have defended the ludicrous salaries and the failure to abide by contracts. I have even tried to defend the sometimes moronic comments made by players and managers in the heat of the moment.
Sometimes, however, something happens that it is completely impossible even for the most passionate and ardent football fan to defend. Over the last couple of days, the President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter and the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœwant awayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo, have both overstepped the mark by so far that no amount of grovelling apologies will make up for the crass stupidity and insensitivity of their remarks.
Sepp Blatter decided he should get involved in the discussions around whether Cristiano Ronaldo should be allowed to ignore the contract he signed with Manchester United and head to Real Madrid. It has got absolutely nothing to do with him and he had no need to pass comment but I suppose, as the head of our game, his opinion is one that we should know and consider and he is a reasonable person to ask about the situation.
What he then told Sky Sports was astonishing. “I’m always in favour of protecting the player and if the player wants to leave let him leave. If the player wants to play somewhere else, then a solution should be found because if he stays in a club where he does not feel comfortable to play then it’s not good for the player and for the club. I think in football there’s too much modern slavery in transferring players or buying players here and there, and putting them somewhere.Ã¢â‚¬Â
To be fair to Cristiano Ronaldo he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t also use the word slavery, but he did inadvisably say that, Ã¢â‚¬ËœI agree completely with the president of Fifa.”
To associate the life of modern footballers with the connotations of the slave trade is an abhorrent and unforgivable thing to do. Millions of people will be offended by these thoughtless remarks. I hope that both of them, particularly Blatter, are truly ashamed about what they have insinuated.
I cannot begin to understand how a player agreeing to play for a club for five years and being paid one hundred thousand pounds per week for the privilege can be being Ã¢â‚¬Ëœtreated like a slaveÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ when he is asked to fulfil his obligations.
The world has truly gone mad if we stand by and allow these sort of things to be said when there are still millions of starving people in the world and even in the industrialised world the credit squeeze means that money is getting harder to come by and many people live in poverty.
I wish Sepp Blatter could tell me who it is exactly that he thinks should be feeling sorry for Ronaldo. I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think of one person in the world who wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t swap places with him yet we are meant to understand just how annoying, difficult and upsetting his life is.
Maybe Ronaldo can explain himself. So far he has just said, “You know what I said, what I want and what I would like.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Could he sound more like a spoilt child if he tried? We would all like lots of things but we canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t always have them. He has almost everything he could possibly want and to liken his position to that of slaves is making more and more angry as I write this article!
It took many years, much pain and many deaths to end the abhorrent slave trade just so that human beings could have the right to a basic level of freedom. To suggest that having to stay at one football club that pays you one hundred thousand pounds a week rather than go to another that might pay you a bit more is in any way a form of modern slavery is one of the most ridiculous, offensive and downright disgraceful things I have ever heard.
As a football fan I feel let down by the man who is supposed to be the leader of the world game. As I have said, I will defend most things in football because it is a beautiful game that brings pleasure to millions of people around the world. What I cannot do however is defend the indefensible.
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