x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

There ought to be a trophy for championship whinging

When it comes to a complete disconnect with reality, sportstars the world over are in a class of their own.

'The players are getting robbed." What players? And who is this? "They are. The owners are making so much money off of us to begin with." Ah yes, it's the Minnesota Vikings $10 million-a-year running back Adrian Peterson, speaking in March about the NFL owners' lock-out of players.

"I don't know that I want to quote myself on that …" Well, don't then. "It's modern-day slavery, you know?" Too late. We just hope Peterson's mother doesn't hear about this.

And he just kept going. "People kind of laugh at that, but there are people working at regular jobs who get treated the same way, too."

Those pesky "regular" people, always complaining. But the spoilt masses - "jealous Americans" who "play the victim card" and want to "take somebody else's Cadillac", according to Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain - behind Occupy Wall Street are not the only ones unhappy with their lot in life. As similar "Occupy" demonstrations spread across America, and the rest of the world, spare a thought for those poor basketball players in the US whose fight against salary caps has already delayed the NBA season by two weeks.

In theory, the season could be cancelled, at a cost of more than $1 billion (Dh3.7 billion) in lost revenues and sponsorship. But don't bet on it. The choice between making a few less million, or nothing at all, is really no choice at all for these modern-day gladiators. Not even the dimmest of athletes, and the competition is stiff here, doesn't know which side his bread is buttered on.

The American sport arenas are not the only places where athletes are being denied their inalienable right to wear more gold chains, drink more Chivas and buy more cars. When it comes to a complete disconnect with reality, few can match footballers plying their trade in Europe's top leagues. And you'd be surprised who has been at the forefront of the battle to free these oppressed athletes from the shackles of the evil clubs (which, technically, have turned them into instant millionaires).

In the summer of 2008, Fifa's version of Karl Marx, Sepp Blatter, astonishingly called on Manchester United to stop treating Cristiano Ronaldo, who was at the time angling for a move to Real Madrid, like a "modern-day slave" and grant him his wish. (What is it with sport professionals and stupid slave metaphors, anyway?)

At the time, Ronaldo was under contract and on a weekly wage of £100,000 (Dh570,000). But naturally Blatter's concern shook the football world to its foundation, as fans concluded that the Portuguese player was training all day, only to spend every night in Korean sweatshops sewing the very club apparel that bore his name and makes him extra millions in the process.

And speaking of Manchester, no discussion of misunderstood footballers is complete without a mention of Carlos Tevez.

The Manchester City ex-captain, one of the highest paid players in the history of football, recently refused to come off the bench during his club's match against Bayer Munich in the Champions League.

Not surprisingly, having lost 2-0, manager Roberto Mancini was not exactly overjoyed that an employee earning hundreds of thousands of pounds a week would simply refuse to do his job. As the tactful Vikings running back Peterson might put it, what if someone in a "regular job" such as at McDonald's refused to serve your Big Mac because he didn't feel like it?

Except your average McDonald's employee would have to work for two years without holiday to make what Tevez makes in a single day, whether he is sitting on a substitute's bench or, once in a blue moon, actually playing. And this from someone who hails from a humble neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, the hometown of another famous Argentine.

What would Che think, Carlos, what would Che think?

 

akhaled@thenational.ae

Follow him on Twitter @AliKhaled_