The glory of the substitute
As Shakhtar Donetsk’s Willian looked to have piled on Champions league agony for Chelsea with his twin strikes at Stamford Bridge, manager Roberto Di Matteo decided to bring in Victor Moses for Oscar, late into the game.
Shakhtar had twice pulled back into the game, courtesy some clinical finishing from Willian, and with the scores locked at 2-2, Chelsea looked like heading for an early exit from this season’s tournament.
But Moses lived up to his name, as he put a classy header past Shakhtar custodian Andriy Pyatov, late in injury time, which ultimately proved to be the match winner.
Moses’ late winner bought back memories of the late goal heroics of former Red Devil Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (the famous 1999 Champions League final of course!) and Manchester City‘s Edin Dzeko (versus QPR last season!); arguably two of the most famous substitutions ever to be made in club football history.
Though footballing history has many such instances of substitutes coming on late to score a last gasp winner or an equaliser, the fact remains that a substitute is still a ‘substitute’.
Ask Cesc Fabregas of Barcelona.
The Spaniard, a product of the Catalans’ famed ‘La Masia’ academy, for all his prodigious talents, still struggles to make it to the Spain starting eleven, thanks to Spain’s famous midfield duo of Xavi and Andreas Iniesta (Fabregas can take consolation from the fact that unlike Juan Mata and Mikel Arteta, he at least comes on as a sub!).
Former France international Vikash Dhorashoo is another guy who has spent most of his international career as a substitute.
After getting booed and jeered by the ‘Les Blues’ faithful for replacing the legendary Zinedine Zidane in a pre-World Cup friendly against Mexico at the Stade De France, Dhorasoo had to warm the bench during most of France’s run up to the 2006 World Cup final (Ironically, Dhorasoo started in each of France’s qualifying games for the 2006 World Cup!).
A frustrated Dhorasoo later went on to make a documentary film called as ‘Substitute’, with friend and film maker Fred Poulet.
The film reveals how Dhorasoo felt like a ‘football player who could not play football’ and many other frustrations the player had to face during his time with the ‘Les Blues’.
Dhorasoo, who is famously named as ‘The French footballing philosopher’ and ‘The guy who replaced Zizou’, and Fabregas, are just two of many players in professional football who, despite having great talent and skill, have to play second fiddle to more skilled players.
As the good old saying goes, ‘Everything is fair in love and football’, there certainly is no reason for players like Fabregas and Dhorasoo to stop loving the game, as coming on as a substitute and making a mark with a late winner or equaliser has a glory of its own.
And Chelsea’s Moses will definitely agree with this writer on that fact!