An open letter to Andre Gomes
Dear Andre Gomes,
I cannot begin by asking you how you are doing. It was actually a glimpse of how you are, that prompted this letter. I just read your interview, where you revealed the mounting pressure on you to deliver results.
When FC Barcelona bought you from Valencia in July 2016, it was quite a surprising move. The usual fanfare of football transfers, the bargains, the speculations, the media extravaganza, etc. was missing in this deal.
However, what was more interesting is how Barca snatched you from under the nose of their archrival Real Madrid, for according to reports, the Madrid side was the one showing real interest in the player who was also part of the 2016 Euro Cup winning Portugal side.
A player whose strengths lie in short passes and versatility combined with an added advantage of being ambidextrous, it did indeed seem that you and Barca were going to be a great match.Afterall, one could see you fitting in any of the three traditional mid-field slots in the Barca side.
About one and a half years down the line, I have to admit that you have not quite set the grass at Nou Camp on fire. But that's not to say that you lack skills. If anything, your pass success rate of 81 percent with Valencia in the 2015-16 season in La Liga has gone up a notch to around 88 percent thus far this season with Barcelona. The fact that your coaches have always been confident about you supports my observations.
For some reason, this does not seem to be enough for the fans and they have started jeering and booing at you. Constructive criticism helps a player to evaluate his shortcomings and overcome. Insults and jibes will only have a negative impact on the psychology of the player affecting his performance further.
I know it is getting worse with Barcelona fans jeering at you on multiple occasions. The most recent instance being the La Liga match against Atletico Madrid on 4 March 2018, at the Camp Nou. Players and some other fans did come to your support, both on and off the ground.
Many have pointed out that the substitution was the coach's decision, and players have no choice but to honour that decision. You replaced Iniesta who was injured. And while your current form may not match Iniesta's current stellar show, the boos that came from Camp Nou was in bad taste. Honestly, it was quite unprecedented.
There is a problem with us football fans. We follow the game, cheer our favourite teams and abuse the opponents to forget our own day-to-day disappointments and miseries. When our team and the players perform well, we are elated; we feel good about ourselves. When they don't, we vent out all our anger and frustrations on them. The psychology is simple, we project the problems that we cannot face or deal with on to someone or something else.
We forget that you people are also human beings, with apprehensions, fears, and tensions and vulnerable to public opinions. Now I have only played football regularly for the school team. But that experience reminds me of how harsh fans can be, though it was mostly the away grounds that haunted us.
Players are often asked to 'man up', to take in everything stoically and not be affected. Expressing vulnerability or showing lack of confidence is subjected to open contempt.
I realized that this was a serious matter when the Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde and your teammate Marc-Andre ter Stegen responded angrily to the home crowd at the Atletico Madrid match. You later revealed in an interview that playing on the home ground was turning into hell and that you no longer enjoy what you loved to do.
The commentators in one of the recent matches too observed that your performance at away grounds has been better than the ones at the home ground. I am shocked and pained. This is no way to treat a human being, let alone a player.
As a football fan, it is this sad reality that prompted me to write this letter. Please realize that there are at least a few of us, who remember what you really are capable of. Please do remember that we respect you for still going out on that ground to fight it out. For I understand, it must not have been easy for you.
I would ask you to ignore them and instead remember the ones close to you, including your teammates, who believe in you and support you, hold on to them. I read you said in the interview that you are in pain. I hope you overcome. I hope you heal. Like everything else, this too shall pass.
A football fan.