Cole and Sturridge tarnish football as Olympians flourish
Oh dear. This is not the time to live down to the popular opinion of a modern footballer. The nation is gripped by Olympic fever and is celebrating the achievements of a series of athletes who restore faith in human nature. Enter, stage left, Ashley Cole, of Chelsea and England.
Ben Ainslie, the greatest sailor in Olympic history, had just won his fourth gold medal when Cole decided to retaliate against Twitter trolls aligned to his former club. The Chelsea defender posted the following on his account: “Arsenal fans, get over it. I left. I won. #ihaveastaronmychestnow”.
Chelsea fans, predictably, loved it. Arsenal fans frothed at the mouth. Stay classy, people. The whole affair had the dignity of a drunken scuffle in a pub car park. No one came out of it well. The dire image of the modern footballer was duly reinforced. Cole, who also used Twitter to deny he is demanding £200,000 a week to stay at Stamford Bridge, simply didn’t need to get involved.
Football has so much to learn from the Olympic experience. Athletes, from a range of sports, have an affecting humanity and humility. They have a clearer vision and better values than most of the Premier League’s multimillionaires, who embody the institutionalised arrogance of their sport.
There is nowhere to hide in an Olympic Games. Success and failure is magnified – as Cole’s Chelsea team-mate Daniel Sturridge will discover this week. He was immediately diminished by his failure in Saturday night’s penalty shoot-out in Cardiff against South Korea, which led to the elimination of an underwhelming GB team.
His stuttering run-up and transparent lack of confidence hinted at a lack of mental strength and an unfamiliarity with a process that is easy to practice. It led, inevitably in the current climate, to unflattering comparisons with Olympic athletes, whose training programmes have a rigour and professionalism which few football clubs match.
Sturridge’s graceless response to his failure – he ripped his shirt off and pushed away sympathisers – will come back to haunt him.
He doesn’t need to care. He has achieved little in the game, yet earns around £4m a year, basic. He has been surrounded by people who are all too willing to tell him how good he is since his early teens.
In his world, perspective is for the little people, the fans who would cherish a fraction of his natural talent. But they are the best judges of a sportsman’s character. The verdict on the likes of Cole and Sturridge will be withering.
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