Tomas Rosicky: Goodbye, Little Mozart
I was amidst a conversation with one of my closest confidants about how the game has changed since we first started watching the sport, when the crushing reality of the time that has passed us by, hit me. Hard. Suddenly, the horrible realization that almost all of my childhood heroes growing up are now hanging up their boots came to the fore and I panicked.
Pirlo, Xavi, Totti, Ronaldinho. Well, not Ronaldinho, because he'll probably be kicking it about in some street in Porto Alegre in Southern Brazil even when he's sixty; honestly, the man is a phenomenon. But Andres Iniesta... No more Andres Iniesta.
"Will the game lose its allure?"
Roughly 24 hours past that conversation I was looking at Tomas Rosicky play his final game over a patchy internet connection, all of 4,348 miles away from where it was happening. And it was clear as daylight...
The hurt that accompanies idolizing, worshipping, apotheosizing, in my opinion, the greatest striker of his generation, Thierry Henry, since before I could tell time, and then not going on to watch him play football with my own eyes has had its lasting consequences which often manifest in the form of cranky petulant behavior toward loved ones. I reckon it must be that.
Let alone witnessing one of the greatest specimens of the game - my all-time favourite, the possibility of not being able to watch any of the players from the era I started watching football in was now staring me in the face. Well, of course, all but Ronaldinho. Seriously, the man's a force of nature.
One such player who will probably slip through the pages of history, when the sport is recounted and retold many decades from now, will be a player who, if not restricted by injuries, would be bestowed with the same level of adulation as the names mentioned before.
With a tendency for the spectacular and the consistency to match, the Czech was a delight to watch every time he stepped onto a football pitch. He has been plagued by injury throughout his career, having suffered eight different instances of hamstring problems and seven thigh-related issues. That might've diminished his chances of fulfilling his potential, but never his love for the game.
Now, after spending over 550 hours on the grass, with his final few minutes in front of him, the smile on his face which could, as has his talent, light up the Emirates only typified the way he approached the game all through the dark times.
The little that we did get to see of him was bordering on perfection. Flagrant disregard for the norm, the audacious outside of the boot stuff, belting it in from 30 yards out, the no-look pass culminating in a volley from the edge of the box, the most ludicrous combination of one-touch football before dinking it over the keeper. Every bit of it was magical. Surreal.
Like an artist filling up the white spaces on a blank canvas with colors of ecstasy. Like the conductor of an orchestra always picking the right notes in a symphony. Like Little Mozart.
The number 7 for Arsenal has been worn by some of the finest in the game. In my lifetime, I've seen both Alexis Sanches and Robert Pires don that number. And yet, somehow, I want to own the one that has neither of their names on it. I want the one with 'Rosicky' on it.
That is how special he is. Was. Aargh!
A measure of the man can be assessed by the big stars who had decided to not just lend their names, but their time and energy to give one of the most liked players in the Premier League a fitting farewell.
A testimonial consisting of players who are still plying their trade on the highest levels of the game, the match provided the perfect opportunity for Arsenal's unheralded midfield foursome to come together and produce some scintillating football, with a certain Dutch striker who goes by the name of Robin van Persie hoping to get on the end of those moves.
Also read: Arsène's Arsenal: Forever and for always
Alex Song, who knows a thing or two about setting up those thunderous volleys from the edge of the box for the striker, was joined alongside Matthieu Flamini, Alexander Hleb, and only Cesc Fabregas.
Even Jens Lehman found a place between the sticks for the World XI. And being Jens Lehmann he obviously provided the anti-climax he is so inherently wired to do. Queue the mindless blunder at White Hart Lane to allow Tottenham to level it up with just minutes to go before Arsenal could be crowned Champions at the home of their eternal rivals.
What he did on the night was almost as exasperating. Having switched teams after half-time, Tomas Rosicky stepped up to take the penalty for Czech Republic XI. The German keeper went the right way and prevented the maestro from scoring in his final match. Luckily for the rest of us, Martin Atkinson - yeah, Martin Atkinson took out time to officiate the match - decided the keeper had come off his line and ordered the ball to be placed on the spot again.
There was no denying Tomas this time, as he passed the ball into the left side-netting. He had his moment, and we got our memory.
That was not all, the diminutive playmaker produced one of his vintage outside-of-the-foot assists to land Czech their fourth goal of the night.
But perhaps the moment that stole all the attention was when Rosicky brought his son onto the field, dribbled past the entire team as players went down willingly, before passing the ball to Rosicky Jr. who scored by nutmegging the pantomime villain in goal.
What is it that makes you sit up and take notice?
It's the same thing that makes you tune into a testimonial match. It's the same thing that made you jump on your couch with unbridled joy every time he scoredin all those years gone by. It is the same thing that keeps you up at three in the night to document your love for the man with the World Cup just a matter of hours away.
It is, now was, Tomas Rosicky.
Going back to the question I asked myself right at the start and the terrible realization that came along with it. After having watched the five-year-old trot onto the pitch, much like his father did all those years ago, and then slot the ball home through the 'keeper's legs, a semblance of hope arises from the dust that settles on the legendary career of his father.
As long as the future promises footballers with Rosicky's blood flowing through their veins, football should be alright.