In a recent interview with The Guardian, Tottenham Hotspur star Benoit Assou-Ekotto has proven himself to be a very honest man. If you read the interview, Assou-Ekotto talks about how football is a job for him, not a passion. That he doesn’t keep friends on the team, and that the “shirt” means nothing to him, and other players are liars when they say they don’t play for money. My question is, are we at all surprised by this? Are fans entitled to be upset?
Professional footballers in the Premier League (and every other league) are from all around the globe, they are playing for the club that is currently offering them the best situation, it is their job. They are performing for money. Players are mercenaries, they don’t play for their childhood club, it is very rare for a player to have pride for the shirt. Can we even get mad at an Assou-Ekotto for being so honest? What did we expect? Are we so naive to think that our favorite players from our favorite football teams are playing for pride of the club? I don’t understand how we can get mad when a Ronaldo leaves for Spain, or even worse when a Tevez or Campbell leave for the club’s rival. It’s a business. It goes both ways too. A club will cut ties with a player or sack a coach without blinking.
So my next question is, does the World Cup provide us with the best opportunity to see the greatest footballers in the world playing for more than money? Yes, some may have a new contract at stake, but they’re body of work has already been seen, one month of football compared to their last couple seasons will not make or break anyone. Some may be unknowns playing for smaller countries wanting to impress some big clubs, but again they have a large body of work already, and with modern scouting there is rarely anyone with talent to be under the radar. And yes, players do get compensated for playing in the World Cup, but with the contracts they are already locked into with their club, it would be hard to argue they couldn’t do without. This leads me to believe that more passion and pride goes into the World Cup than does playing for club. Representing your country at the highest level and being one of thirty-two nations to even make it to the World Cup is a priceless achievement. Does this lead to better football?
You could argue that national teams don’t get as much practice time to get chemistry right like they have for their club. You could also say some players are playing outside of their more natural positions. However, I think when you take the stage that the World Cup is played on, and the passion and pride involved, we will see better football being played June 11 – July 11 than we have all year. Like Assou-Ekotto eluded to in his interview, football in England is his job. When he is not playing football he is a tourist in England. Not everyone in club football even speaks the same language, national teams do. When more is at stake this summer than money, I believe we will see great, great football.