AMH is an independent media house free from political ties or outside influence. We have four newspapers: The Zimbabwe Independent, a business weekly published every Friday, The Standard, a weekly published every Sunday, and Southern and NewsDay, our daily newspapers. Each has an online edition.

  • Marketing
  • Digital Marketing Manager: tmutambara@alphamedia.co.zw
  • Tel: (04) 771722/3
  • Online Advertising
  • Digital@alphamedia.co.zw
  • Web Development
  • jmanyenyere@alphamedia.co.zw

The Soccer Whiz: The power of the player

Mbappé and Neymar may be playing out their soap in front of a packed Parc des Princes but it’s not by any stretch of imagination the first fiesta footballing feud at a recognized club.

BY ZAK HAWA IT all started over a missed PSG penalty taken by Mbappé.

When PSG were awarded a second penalty later on, Neymar decided that he was going to assume responsibility, refused to pass the ball over to Mbappé , strided over to the penalty spot and slotted the penalty home.

In a match where PSG won comfortably, you must be thinking so what’s the big deal and where exactly am I going with this?

Well, oddly enough it has become a big deal and has caused waves in the PSG camp because quite frankly Mbappé is furious that Neymar took a penalty he feels that he had no right to take while Neymar has gone onto like a Twitter post which in essence confirms that he believes that he’s the right guy to take them and will continue to take them.

Later on in the same match, Mbappé displayed further arrogance and contempt for his teammates when a teammate chose to pass to Messi over him and Mbappé literally stopped running in a flagrant display of brash arrogance.

Meanwhile, Messi, the man who perhaps should be taking the penalties as he genuinely could do with some goals to kick start his second season at PSG, silently watched and muttered to himself Nay, probably wishing he’d taken up the offer to stay at Barca for zero pay! Now he’s paying the penalty!

Welcome folks to the new soap of superstar footballers vying for attention and power playing out on football pitches and televisions across the globe.

What’s in full view here is the sight of the new generation of Savile Row spoiled, sullen sulky superstars behaving like a bunch of teenage neanderthals fighting for the limelight, contesting for the lion’s share of the public adulation and fame, doing so at any cost it appears to their reputation.

Mbappé has unsurprisingly and very early on in his fledgling potentially ground breaking career, already started to pull the shots and make his otherwise world class and revered teammates Messi and Neymar feel like they are second in the pecking order behind him.

Mind you it’s not like Neymar was any better when he arrived at PSG five years ago.

In fact it’s the very same Neymar who catapulted into motion the kind of superstar royalty display that we are now witnessing from Mbappé with his February carnival trips to Brazil, his late nights and infamous parties, and regular late arrival for training.

Mbappé and Neymar may be playing out their soap in front of a packed Parc des Princes but it’s not by any stretch of imagination the first fiesta footballing feud at a recognized club.

In fact the beautiful game has hosted a sizable number of legendary and really interesting iconic superstars over the years.

Some of them were unbelievable footballers with even more unbelievable egos while others were pretty good footballers with pretty shocking manners. How did clubs determine what was acceptable then and how do they determine what is acceptable now?

George Best’s name is always mentioned when the names of all-time greats are discussed.

He was one of the world’s first global superstars and the original PlayStation type footballer, mesmerising opponents with his tremendous speed, dazzling footwork and trickery.

He was with his model looks perhaps also the first documented playboy footballers too and women were instantly drawn to him.

He had a tremendous appetite for the game and when he stepped on the field, he rarely bottled it.

He did though also have a penchant and appetite for the bottle, becoming an alcoholic while still a professional footballer.

In the end, the Best lifestyle of womanising, late nights and drinking took a massive toll and his career was over way too soon.

The question remains how the club allowed someone who was known to be late for training, known to arrive drunk and known to be sometimes so inebriated that he could barely walk, to remain firmly entrenched as a valued member of the team.

The answer I suspect lies simply and purely in his ability to perform on the field and so as long as George could turn it on where and when it mattered, then the club would turn a blind eye and look the other way at his indiscretions and poor lifestyle choices.

By the way, I do wonder sometimes if we shouldn’t be placing more of a responsibility on the clubs to look after these young footballers who in a short space of time are transported from one world of little, to another of luxury.

Most of the time, these young men are thrown into this alternative new world while barely out of their teens ,kitted with bags of cash and with no one to guide them or to turn too.

In George’s time the situation was even worse with pub culture not only accepted, but also encouraged.

The fact that he was able to get on the field and perform despite his off the field antics, was applauded and may even have furthered his reputation.

Nevertheless George was a vital cog in Sir Matt Busby’s side that became the first English side to lift the European Cup in 1968 and he will go down in Manchester United folklore as one of their greatest players ever.

Eric Cantona meanwhile cannot be left out of any conversation when it comes to discussing iconic Manchester United stalwarts and so before he karate kicks me into touch for not doing so, let me categorically state that Cantona, more than any other player was responsible for the rise of Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson.

Cantona divided opinion then as he still does now, but he was a strong rich personality who was able to unite the players while always being a model professional on the field.

Off the field, he earned incredible adulation remarkably in some quarters and in others intense disgust for physically launching a kung-fu style kick at a spectator in the stands who he claimed had been racially abusing him as he walked off the field after being sent off in a match against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in 1995.

His subsequent nine month ban probably cost Manchester United the title as it was wrestled from them in his absence by Blackburn Rovers.

Instead of canning him, and despite the act being deemed reprehensible and shocking by the vast majority of managers interviewed at the time, Manchester United decided he was really too important to let go and their faith in him was immediately rewarded the following year with the completion of the League and Cup double.

It was very evident that Cantona was very much at his spiritual home in Manchester and in the process developed a rapport with the fans seldom ever seen.

A Manchester United minus Eric The King the following season would have struggled to put the pieces together, would have lost the most important part of their jigsaw and would have sent them tumbling years back.

When we marvel at Sir Alex Ferguson’s unbelievable legacy, I can’t help but feel that it’s largely down to his backing of Eric Cantona at a key pivotal moment for both the club and the man.

Without The King, Manchester United’s rich tapestry would have been less regal and more common.

Fast forward to 2022 and Manchester United have arguably their greatest ever player, Cristiano Ronaldo, currently causing a major fracas and disturbance.

It’s fine when it’s in the opposing goalmouth and he is scoring goals and bringing victory and much needed success to the club.

It’s very much a different story when your star player is causing a major fracas internally and deeply unsettling the club.

When the club invested heavily in transfer fees and salary to bring him back to the club last year, it was a move met with some scepticism in certain quarters.

The feeling was that Manchester United needed to bring in someone much younger, much fresher and much more willing to give in to the needs of the collective team.

Cristiano was never going to be that man and while discussions rage about whether or not he is suited to this system or that system, the reality is that he has for sometime now, been an extremely successful but selfish player who places his needs first.

His devilish out of the red transfer request, his failure to attend training in the off season and his sheer utter arrogance on his return to the club this season with the words “Sunday the King plays” are so typical but unfortunate.

This is a reality at Old Trafford where Cristiano has been feted, cosseted and deified to the extent where he is answerable to none.

When one compares Cristiano’s attitude and situation today with that of Cantona in January 1995, it’s no surprise that Cantona unanimously received the backing of the club and a green card ultimately welcoming him back to Old Trafford.

In the case of Cristiano, the club should with immediate effect issue him a red card and hasten his departure out of Old Trafford.

The club will only be able to rebuild the team under coach Erik ten Hag once divisive figurehead Cristiano with all his Ballon d’Ors is ushered out of the door!

I’ve attempted to use these three Manchester United legends covering different time periods to highlight the fact that superstar players with special privileges have always been in existence and will always be in existence.

The question though from the clubs perspective has always been to determine the extent to which these players can be indulged without negatively affecting the mood, form and harmony in the dressing room.

George Best and Eric Cantona had personal flaws but unlike Cristiano Ronaldo and Mbappé, they didn’t let their internal demons affect the performance of the club, they didn’t try to influence the politics of the club and they remained steadfastly loyal to the club.

By all accounts, George Best was not an unlikeable teammate. He was though a victim of his own success, unable to deal with all the trappings of his wealth and fame.

Once he got onto the field though, that was all forgotten as his moments of genius would send the crowds into rapture.

Eric Cantona is in many respects the ultimate superstar player that every club dreams of having on their books.

He’s the one who despite knowing that he is superior to his teammates, ultimately still bows down to the needs of his team.

He’s the consummate professional who will do all in his artistry, all in his magical ability to get the team over the line.

Sir Alex Ferguson recognized this, recognized just what an incredible power he had in the form of Cantona and Cantona did not disappoint and duly delivered.

Cristiano Ronaldo meanwhile finds himself increasingly isolated.

Notwithstanding all he’s done for the club, not ignoring all the titles and magical moments he’s personally contributed to, he must undergo a rapid metamorphosis in terms of his commitment and attitude or else he may, not far down the road, be viewed as an opportunist who came to milk one last time the mother that gave birth to him.

Till the next time folks….

  • Feedback:
  • zak.thesoccerwhiz@gmail.com

Related Topics

Sparkling Gems qualify for Netball World Cup
By The Southern Eye Aug. 28, 2022
‘Zim film culture bad’
By The Southern Eye Aug. 28, 2022
Inside sport: Is Dynamos a community team?
By The Southern Eye Aug. 28, 2022