Football is as far from the land of reality that most of us live in as you could get. It’s always had cult status, and football stars are often superstars in the same description as movie or music stars. Expecting the normal from someone or some organisation which is not normal is our mistake. Lets look at this way if you had many people falling over you since an early age, and suitors lined up for your signature, to be paraded in front of many thousands up to twice a week, with both press and media adulation, then to be rewarded each week with more than 85% of the population take home in an entire year, maybe your grasp on the reality of life is not going to be the same as your everyday football supporter. Is it really unreasonable of us to expect they know other than through their own family and friends what it’s really like in the real world?
It is a life so many of us wish for and push our siblings into in the hope of striking it lucky, just look as many of the parents watching their little darlings at the weekend youth matches, then you wonder why so many become unbalanced. Neither of my parents were interested in football, the world cup final of 66 passed me by, even though I was really too young to know anything about it, it was an uncle that sparked that interest along with playing football in the street with other kids and the playground at school….. Yes jumpers were used as goal posts, so were coats, shoes, school bags, and even kids from the year below!
I’ve loved football for around 43 years now, always enjoyed playing it as a kid and an adult, was never ever going to make it big and I was not bothered about it either, I played because I enjoyed the game, I was lucky enough to make the school teams through many years, even district, but never made county standard, picked up a few minor tin pots along the way, won a country cup as an adult, even played for two teams from overseas when I was working and living aboard…. however football was a game, something to do when I was not studying or working, it was relaxation, fun, having a laugh with friends, socialising….. Watching Chelsea was the serious bit.
There have been some amazing times since I watched my first game in 1970, at first we were a great side, but then through a combination of events and poor direction from our owners, we crumbled, only a few bright moments on the pitch between 73 and 84, but off the pitch it was great fun. In 1981 on February 7th we beat Cambridge at home 3-0, from then on until the end of the season we scored only 2 goals in 13 games, just the 2-0 win at home to Bolton on the 7th March, the rest were all blanks, that’s 12 matches, I think I saw most if not all of them, the following year we had the tense relegation battle with just one win (at Bolton) in our last 11 games, to save us…. just.
That’s the way the majority of football clubs and supporters face ever year, no real prospect of winning even a tin cup, that is the reality of football.
Today we are extremely lucky, we have made steady progression since 1994/5, that’s 17 years, a life time for many, its been very much challenging for honours most of the time, and winning a fair share, with a few mystery, crazy moments thrown in for good measure as well.
Witnessed the introduction of so many changes in the game, many for the good ( the quality of pitches for one) and a few for the bad (not being able to tackle and celebrity refs), it’s been a rollercoaster, but everything considered I glad I never had the ability to make it as a footballer.
Your life is not really your own, you are a commodity, everyone wants a piece of you, with a really strong structured daily life, late nights and early mornings are off the list 11 months of the year, the world’s media prying into every aspect of your private and your families life, your wealth, status and home a daily target for low life’s, plus chancer’s wanting a fast buck, the vitriolic abuse hurled at you because you wear a certain colour shirt (Christian Ronaldo get all he deserves), the risk of injury that can make the next game your last, so called pundits ripping your bad performances apart with no real right of reply, everywhere you go someone wants a chat, an autograph a photo, your life is really a version of THE TRUMAN SHOW!
So, is it any surprise that most footballers are detached from the reality of our normal lives, when really nothing in their life is normal. For all their wealth, and fancy trinkets, and the obligated contact with the gutter press, they can keep it……
I can walk out my door and not be shadowed every waking moment, my children can have a childhood without disruption and press stalking, my brothers and sisters are left to live their lives, my parent(s) are not continually hounded for stories or photos.
Around 11 years ago whilst working on a contract in Aldershot during the summer I met and got to know Ron Harris.
When I say know, it would be if we met anywhere he would always say hello and have a brief conversation if the situation allowed, I’ve always been reluctant to butt in when someone famous is out an about, I’ve never been a star chaser or autograph hunter, I value my personal time and space highly and I’m just an normal guy.
So Ron was sitting alone in a nice relaxing country pub one evening (no name given) I knew the landlord but never seen Ron in there before, it happened that the Landlord and Ron were old friends, Ron would pop in to see him when time allowed, I just asked what Ron was drinking and could he put one in for him, as thanks from a Chelsea supporter for his loyal service to the club. Obviously Ron had asked who had brought his drink and came over to see me and say thanks, thus a conversation about football developed.
Well it happened Ron and I chatted for a good couple of hours and our friend the landlord joined in several times, so the conversation must have been acceptable, it was interesting to hear his side to being a footballer, especially the good and the bad from those days, indeed he is a true Chelsea legend.
There was a story he told about the day he marked Georgie Best at the Bridge, which I gather is quite famous, and had me in stitches. Anyway I bumped into Ron several times that summer and once in Birmingham when he did a football talk show with Jimmy Greaves at a minor theatre, a nice surprise after the show when we invited to stay for an extended chat.
The last time I remember seeing Ron was on the Channel Tunnel Express to Brussels to play Anderlecht in the Champions League, he was doing some raffle in aid of some charity, the sad thing was that his good friend the landlord had had a serious heart attack a few days prior and things did not look good, even then Ron was able to give his time to many supporters with a smile, even if he did not feel like it.
I’ll take my life with its up an downs, it worries and woes, its my life I can deal with it, money does not solve life’s problems, (as long as I can earn enough to cover my bills and have some fun along the way I’m happy) it might give better medical care, but it can not make us immortal, and for sure it won’t guarantee love or happiness, I can keep all my personal interests, my friends are my friends, because of me and not friends, for status or money. I come and go when I please, I have my own freedom without stalkers, I can even make the odd mistake without the whole world knowing my failings.
So we wonder why footballers are so detached, it’s really because we make them that way.
Posted by ‘Voltaire’