A few months ago, if you’d asked me what it would be like to play for a major club, I would say ‘priceless’. Playing in a famous league still seems like a dream.
A few days ago, while training at the academy, with scouts from this famous Turkish club watching, I somehow never saw myself leaving my coach and my mates, and all of a sudden playing in a stadium with thousands of fans storming in, week in, week out. Walking into a dressing room with my kit neatly arranged in a corner, and most importantly, having a jersey with my name at the back, it’s more than I could ever have asked for.
My father once said: “Play for the name on the front of the shirt and they’ll remember the name at the back.” And now that I’m living the dream, I hope to keep this in mind for as long as my feet are my ally.
With the season just around the corner, there’s a lot of pressure. I now don’t have to play just for myself but for each and every individual who supports this club. It seems a very difficult task, but I just need to prove my worth and hopefully I’ll be able to handle it. Also, being handed only a one-year contract, I need to be at the top of my game right from the start.
Midway through the season now, and I’ve become what you could call a local hero in these parts. Winning over the fans was one thing, but now they chant my name whenever I step onto the pitch. Leading the league with assists and helping my club claw to the top of the table, I’d say it’s all going smoothly now.
In fact, newspapers report that I’m being watched by scouts from different clubs, and that does tend to put that little extra pressure. But right now I’ve to only focus on doing well for the club I’m on a contract with.
It’s the last day of the season and we’ve won the title. The fans stormed onto the pitch and picked me up on their shoulders, pride in the form of tears streaming down their faces. It was a moment you could die for. A feeling unknown, passion inexpressible.
The media called me the “next Messi”. However overwhelming that sounds to me, my father wouldn’t be too fond of that nickname, as he wanted me to be famous by my name, not by someone else’s.
It didn’t take long for the ‘golden paper’ to pop up – 4 years of commitment to the club was what it said. And without any thought, I was about to sign it when my mind decided to play a little questionnaire. “Do you still want to play in this league? Wouldn’t you want to move to a nation where there is a bigger spotlight?”
I replied: “I am what I am because of this club today. I can’t just walk away. Who doesn’t want to play on the big stage! But I cannot leave this club, the fans, even the players, when they need me. And if I want to move, I can always do so four years later.”
My mind calmly responded: “How do you know if you’ll be the same player you are now a few years down the line? You may get injured, clubs may lose interest in you, it may not be the same.”
Now, I was in a dilemma. I told the gaffer I needed some time. His excitement dropped a little, but he managed to treat me with a smile as he walked away.
With two days to go for the transfer window to open, and with me apparently in every big club’s shopping list, I started weighing my options. Which club would be a good choice?
A move to Barcelona would be a dream for anyone, but then I’d have to take diving lessons first, which would take up a lot of time. Real Madrid seems a great option too, but they’re too involved with ‘Ronaldo staying or leaving?’, so I wouldn’t really be valued there. Maybe the Premier League would be a good destination. After all, it’s considered one of the best leagues in the world.
Old Trafford. That would be an enjoyable place, but they would probably call Scholes out of retirement again and I’d take Berbatov’s place on the bench. Maybe it’s time I had a better house, a better car and more cash in the bank, so a move to title winners Manchester City would do me good. But to play for City, I’d have to play for Arsenal first, and why go to a club that’s stuck in a trophy drought. So, that just leaves Chelsea then. But, that’s a tricky place as well, as you get sacked even if you win trophies.
Where do I go? I never thought choosing a club would be such a hard decision.
Midway through the transfer window now, and according to one newspaper, I’ve spoken to Barcelona and even agreed personal terms, while another says I’m heading to London tomorrow for a medical with a club. I’m surprised why I wasn’t informed about any of this. I think I deserved to know first.
On the other hand, the worried manager has been bringing up the contract every now and then, and piling up pressure on me. It’s not like I don’t want to play here, but then it’s every footballer’s dream to go higher up whenever given the opportunity. Being torn apart, I just want something to materialize soon, either for the good, or maybe even the bad.
It’s finally done. The gaffer came to me and said: “A big club has offered to buy you. Amongst all the other clubs that enquired, I believe they would be perfect to help you develop to your highest potential.”
My eyes were moist. Even when I’m leaving the club, all he could think about was my future. This time my mind switched parties and said: “Do you really want to leave?”
I said: “You were the first one to push me down this road.” I didn’t have anything to say. There I was, all on my own. I made my decision half-heartedly. I was going to leave.
Soon, I was on my way to the stadium to discuss personal terms with the club’s representatives. As my car approached the entrance, I saw a group of fans waiting there for me. They had heard the rumours and planned a last minute stint to keep me from completing the move.
I could see banners all around, with messages written in Turkish. My driver told me that one read, “Please don’t leave us,” while another said, “We love you, yes we do!”
A little boy, who had proudly worn my club jersey, smiled at me like all was well. As though he knew I would make the right decision. I thought again. Could I actually go through with this? Is it more important to stay happy or just become famous? Maybe I would be happy at the new club too, but what would these fans think of me? What would the little boy learn? Deserting your club as soon as you get the opportunity?
As I met the representatives, I shook their hands and said: “I’m sorry. I cannot do this.”
As shocked as they were, one of them smiled at me while they walked off in a huff. Maybe loyalty was a virtue he was yet to see. Getting on the wrong side of a few people is justified when compared to thousands of supporters. Also, I’m sure that the big club would do well without me, but my club may not.
My manager, who had been watching this all along, ran up to me and hugged me. I saw the joy of a little boy on his face. Yes, I’d remembered what my father had quoted, and I’m sure he would have been just as proud of me as the gaffer was.
Have I done the right thing? Time will tell. All I know is that I’ve listened to my heart for once and have never felt this feeling before.
‘Heroes don’t necessarily exist in big teams. A player extending his contract at a top club can never be compared to one who does so in a lower league. Sometimes if you look at these smaller clubs, you would find many more ‘real heroes’. You may never notice them, you may never even get to know them, but they and their fans have an inseparable emotional attachment which you may never understand.’
Talent may be a gift, but it always bows down to loyalty.