Today’s Eric Abidal news has me re-reading my head versus heart post. I’m typically cold blooded with how I expect the business side of sports teams to be run. I certainly don’t like to pretend that I have any business commenting on an player’s contract situation. But today upset me more than I expected and it’s taken me a while to figure out why.
I’m not upset with the decision. I’m upset with the way it was handled and the callous disregard to human decency that it reveals. There are perfectly good reasons to conclude that he was no longer a reliable Barça-quality player. This is cancer we’re talking about. A best-case scenario has him being available for only 33% of the time. He’s not a young player.
None of those reasons are new.
Yet the team appears to have led everyone on for the past season and has been using the Abidal story as a way of claiming a moral high ground about how the club has a soul. All that appears to now have been opportunism.
None of those reasons were mentioned.
Instead we got “sporting” reasons and nods to consensus among the staff—essentially sharing the blame. It’s telling though that no one could articulate any reasons. It’s especially telling that the president of the club actually dodged answering specific questions about the reasons. So we get an extra layer of dishonesty to go with our disappointment in seeing a beloved player leave.
For a while it looked like Barça was indeed more than a club and could be counted on to take the moral high ground. This was a club with a heart and a soul which I could be proud to be a fan of. Even though I know that both the heart and the soul were new phenomenons,* I wanted to believe it would last.
*Historically, Barça has never done well with end-of-contract stuff.
But things have slowly been chipped away. We now have corporate advertising on the shirts. Club membership is no longer open to the world. Players are released with little warning and without regard to any prior service or commitment.
As much as I joke about my team being back, I’m feeling the betrayal of so much of the positive direction I thought we were headed in. And that stings more than any sporting loss.
“Més que un club” has turned out to mean només un negoci. Only a business. Not even a good business at that. Barça has turned into the kind of business which demands employee loyalty but constantly reminds its employees that company loyalty is a one-way street. I wouldn’t blame any player for being on the lookout for other offers. Nor would I hold it against him if he left for those reasons.
Today’s news serves as a reminder about how we should enjoy the truly special teams. That special team is truly done now. Many of the players remain but the soul of the team is gone. Soul is not useful from a sporting point of view so we’ve let it go on a free transfer.
I only kept two recordings from that team—the manita against Madrid and the Champions League Final where Abidal lifted the cup. It’s time to watch them again.