Now I am not naive enough to believe that all Olympians are saints. But in the week following London 2012, I cannot help but contrast the attitudes of some of the heroes of those games with those of some well-known footballers.
Take Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter for example. No-one who saw their interview with Jon Inverdale immediately following their final in the lightweight double sculls when they apologised for finishing “only” second is ever going to forget it. Their distress at what they considered “letting everyone down” was heartbreaking, particularly having seen them give absolutely everything and then some, in their attempt to hold off the Danish boat.
Then one could talk about Andy Murray who drew so much strength from the success of his fellow Team GB members, or Joanna Rowsell proudly claiming her gold medal without the wig that she wears to cover her alopecia. Some like Gemma Gibbons had to overcome personal loss and take part-time jobs to keep up their training. What courage she showed in winning her silver medal. Then consider the dedication shown by so many of the team: the dawn training sessions, seven days a week; the endless separation from families; the constant physical and mental pressure. The cycling squad are not even allowed to shake hands in case the contact with another person leads to them picking up a bug which might cause them to miss a day’s training. Throughout the games, the talk by every athlete was about the team and what it meant to be a part of that team.
And all this is done without a thought about financial reward.
What a difference to football.
There are two big football transfer stories today. One involves Robin Van Persie of Arsenal and the other involves Luka Modric of Spurs. Both stories are perfect example of the total lack of “Olympian spirit” that exists in football today. Now let me lay my cards on the table. I am a Spurs fan and have been for over 60 years. So to see Arsenal fans crying over the loss of Van Persie leaves me cold and unmoved.
But he and Modric are both still under contract. Van Persie has a year left on his and Modric has a full four years left on his contract with Spurs. It makes sense for Arsenal to sell van Persie now especially at the price Manchester United are offering. But Spurs should not have to sell a player who two years ago was happy to sign a new six-year contract with the club that gambled £16.5million to provide him with a global stage on which to perform. At the time of signing that contract Modric said “Tottenham Hotspur gave me my chance in the Premier League and I want to go on to achieve great success here with them. Yes, there have been enquiries from other big clubs, but I have no interest in going anywhere. Last season’s Top 4 finish was an indication of where we are as a Club and I feel I can continue to improve and go on to achieve everything I want to at Spurs.”
That is until an even bigger club comes along offering shedloads of money. In which case I will go on strike and threaten to poison the atmosphere in the dressing room until I get my way. Loyalty? Forget it.
It is a shocking indictment of the modern game that two of the country’s biggest clubs cannot prevent players effectively tearing up contracts. It is an ever bigger indictment of the modern player that they have no qualms in doing so.
It may be a forlorn hope, but none-the-less I do hope that the children growing up today, take as their role models as the heroes of Team GB and not the pampered spoiled brats of the Premier League.