Hleb makes the Gunners’ day! by IO
How do you know you are an Arsenal fan? It is how you react when you read some news about Arsenal; like the one in the Metro about how Alexandr Hleb sold Fabregas a cold shoulder before the Belarus Euro 2016 qualifier game with Spain in Skopje.
Hleb and Fabregas played together at Arsenal and Barcelona. Given this record and association, you will understand why out of everyone in the Spanish team, Fabregas is the one person Hleb, who now plays in Turkey, should have loved to see, hug and chitchat briefly with.
But it was not so. In fact, like everyone else, Fabregas also felt that meeting Hleb was going to be another wonderful re-union, and when Hleb was greeting other former Barcelona players, Fabregas outstretched his hand for greetings. But Hleb ignored him and moved on to the person behind him. It was so obvious and so awkward an action from Hleb. In the video (watch it here) which showed the embarrassing moment, Fabregas was so stunned and could not know what to make of that!
As a Gunners fan, you could well remember how Hleb and Flamini left Arsenal when we needed their services most. Hleb went to Barcelona and Flamini to AC Milan. Sadly, they were great players at Arsenal, but their sojourn to those clubs sped up their slide from prominence in the sport.
Both of these players have recognized how much Arsene Wenger is a wonderful coach, because he makes you play well even when you are not so super. And Hleb in most interviews he granted, always regretted that he left Arsenal.
Read what he told the Telegraph in 2009; “Of course I regret leaving Arsenal…I was playing every week for one of the most exciting sides in Europe, a team which was always in the top four in the Premier League and were Champions League contenders.”
He continued: “I was being guided by one of the best coaches in the world in Arsene Wenger. I owe him a great deal…I developed a better all-round game under him and I became more robust physically, learnt to look up more and play better passes and improved greatly as a team player. No player ever gets worse under Wenger.”
When you read this kind of comment, you understand that someone like Hleb did not expect Fabregas to make the same mistake he made. He sure did not expect that after his and Flamini’s stumble, another set of Wenger brought-ups like Fabregas and Song would abandon the ship again when Arsenal needed them so much. And like it happened with Hleb and Flamini, Fabregas and Song’s journey to Barcelona proved another Achilles Heel.
But then, if the narrative had ended there, perhaps Hleb would not have been much irked. But that Fabregas, like Van Persie, eventually left Barcelona and chose to go to a club which is in direct opposition to the Gunners. It is, of course, at the player’s discretion which club to sign and play for. But all over the world many players have chosen a point of honour of not playing for clubs that hurt the values of the team and fans that made them.
If you read Hleb’s interview above, you will see that Hleb has great love and respect for Arsene, and is still a Gooner through and through. So, everyday, reading not just about Fabregas playing for Chelsea but also making many of those disparaging comments about Arsenal, or much worse being the point that the English press latch on to troll the Gunners, must have been very unacceptable to Hleb as it is to all Gooners. And that wonderful moment was seized by Hleb to show it to Fabregas.
It helped me; this action of Hleb’s. While going to school in Asia, one of my most favourite vests were Arsenal jerseys with Fabregas’ name and the beautiful number 10. Until the sad day he signed for Chelsea and began to talk rubbish. I trashed the jerseys, beautiful as they were.
I have always believed; football is a game but it has values. Nobody exemplifies the value of this sport than Wenger and the Arsenal club. Like Abou Diaby has spent so many years battling injury at the Emirates, only a club like Arsenal (despite losing some high profile games because players like Diaby were not available) could still stick with such players and do more than necessary to see if they could shake off the ill-luck and achieve their potentials. Will I talk of Van Persie? Sadly, the only season Van Persie played fully without injury was the season he turned his back to all the support and love he enjoyed in the times of his difficulty at Emirates.
Chelsea would not allow this. Man United will not. Man City will never ever. That is why I say; in Arsenal we do not just play football. Arsenal is a value system that runs like a family. If everything in Arsenal is about money, Van Persie would not have realized his potentials; same with many other present and past players who struggled through injury or form before coming through in Arsenal. Arsene Wenger makes himself a father to all. He protected them from the media. He supported them through criticisms. He took blames when they do not play well. He praised them when they do.
So, I do not accept any argument, especially ones which suggest players leave for fame or laurels. But even when you feel like you must leave, it should not be to a club where your temporary success will mean a direct insult to the value system that raised you. Best way to avoid this is to go to another league. It is a sacrifice worth making. Or when you arrive in a new club, you do not just say anything you like against your former club (and not just former, but one which made you a star when probably no one gave you change: like Nasri).
In the end, I am so happy with Hleb. He has proven that once a Gooner, always a Gooner. Our value is returning again: three trophies in two seasons. Having some of the most creative talents in English football with balance of age and experience. Not only cold shoulders will do. Soon even the like Van Persie, Fabregas, etc will eat their words. Meanwhile, Fabregas is no longer a Gooner.
Okeke Izuchukwu Job
Pukyong National University, South Korea