x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Galaxy's Keane all starry-eyed

Like Tom Cruise dreaming of life in America in Far and Away, it is much the same for Keane, although his dreams are more about shirt sales and corporate sponsors.

Robbie Keane claims his move to LA Galaxy was a 'dream come true' as he celebrates his goal in his debut game against San Jose Earthquakes last week in style.
Robbie Keane claims his move to LA Galaxy was a 'dream come true' as he celebrates his goal in his debut game against San Jose Earthquakes last week in style.

I do wish people would stop being so cynical about professional footballers and their reasons for moving between clubs.

Yes, the transfer window can be a fraught time, with emotions running high, but surely we can maintain a modicum of trust in our fellow man.

Take Robbie Keane, for example, whose recent claim that signing for the Los Angeles Galaxy was a "dream come true" and that he had "always wanted to play in the MLS" was drowned by a cacophony of derision.

Why is that so hard to believe? What kind of Eurocentric snobbery enables fans to scoff at the idea of a player dreaming of playing for the Galaxy more than playing for, say, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, or Glasgow Celtic - all of which Keane has also described as his boyhood dream.

Man, that kid dreamt a lot.

Still, I can well imagine Robbie as a dirty-kneed schoolboy, kicking a tin can around the back streets of Dublin with his mates, all desperate to emulate their MLS heroes.

"No, Paddy, you great eejit, I'm not Ian Rush, I'm Mauricio Cienfeugos! You can be Bryan Robson."

"Aw, Robbie, why do I always have to be Manchester United players? There's only one United, and that is DC United! I want to be Jeff Agoos!"

Granted, that scenario would be even easier to imagine if Keane had not been 16 years old when MLS launched in 1996, and already signed to Wolverhampton Wanderers, but that is a mere detail.

Besides, he would not be the first Irishman to gaze across the Atlantic and dream.

Remember Tom Cruise in the epic movie Far and Away, about the dirt-poor Irish lad who dreamed of making a new life in America? "Land, Shannon! Land!" he would say to say to his sweetheart, with a gleam in his eye.

Well, it is much the same for Keane, although his dreams are based less upon tilling the fertile plains of Iowa than shirt sales and corporate sponsors: "Brand, Shannon! Brand!"

Speaking of new frontiers, who among us would not be tempted to up sticks and move to Dagestan, in Russia?

It has bracing weather, beautiful views of the Caspian Sea and only sporadic outbreaks of ethnic tension and insurgency.

And yet when Samuel Eto'o signed for Anzhi Makhachkala this week, it was automatically assumed he had done so for the money – a reported €20 million (Dh105.8m) per season.

No one even seemed to consider that it might be for other reasons.

Could it not be, for example, a love of air travel?

Anzhi players are housed in Moscow, you see, and must fly the 2,000 kilometres to Dagestan for home games. Sounds relaxing, doesn't it?

Or, if not airplane food, perhaps Eto'o is attracted by the thought of free bananas, which racist Russian fans tend to hurl at black players.

Or, why not open your minds even further and consider that maybe, just maybe, Eto'o wants to be part of something truly special, that he wants to be part of the sporting fairy tale in which a ragtag band of backwater dreamers rises all the way to the top, through a combination of team spirit, hard work and, erm, several billions of dollars.

Oh, yes, and Robbie Keane, who will probably sign for Anzhi next summer. It was his boyhood dream, apparently.

Sport fun? That's just nonsense Bolt

The most dangerous thinker is he who bears the simplest message.

Usain Bolt, the sprinter, delivered one this week that was utterly simple and, although he may not have intended it to be, utterly revolutionary.

Lounging before a news conference at the athletics world championships in Daegu, South Korea, his baseball cap tilted back to reveal a carefree face, Bolt said of tomorrow’s 100metre final: “It’s not pressure, it’s just fun.”

No, no, no.

Sport is not fun. Not professional sport, anyway. That kind of crazy talk goes against everything we are groomed to believe.

Sport is a serious business. Sport is blood, sweat and tears. Sport is war minus the shooting. Sport is a matter of national or local pride.

Sport defines us, it nurtures us, it guides our every waking thought and can lead us into ecstasy or agony. How could fans stand there weeping if it was all a bit of fun?

If sport were merely “fun”, then we would not really care who wins. Our top athletes would cease to be demigods, and become mere men and women who happen to be rather good at running or throwing or striking a ball.

If that was the case, how would we know which razor blades or trainers to buy, and whose autobiographies would fill our shelves?

What would become of the agents, the lawyers, the PR men and the brand managers who devote their lives to this serious business?

How could we justify spending vast amounts of time watching mere “fun”, and then spend even longer discussing it on television and radio stations – and, yes, sections of newspapers – if it was all a lark? That would be ridiculous.

You are messing with a house of cards, Usain.

For goodness sake, leave it alone before you knock it down, and we all have to do something sensible with our lives – including you.

sports@thenational.ae


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