Vettel the Underappreciated*.

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Hungaroring: Where the hungry takes the win in roaring fashion. Here are the facts after the dance of the chequered flag in this year’s Hungarian GP:

Sebastian Vettel has registered his 2nd win with Scuderia Ferrari.

It hasn’t always been easy, but somehow, he’s made it work.

He’s the only driver so far in 2015 who has finished within the top 5.

And he doesn’t even have a so-called “dominant” car.

He now has a total of 41 wins, equaling Ayrton Senna and moving into the top 3 of the all-time race wins list (only Prost and Schumacher are now ahead).

Third on the list. Just let that sink in. He’s not even close to 30 years old! His best racing years are still ahead of him. And he seems to have plenty of time to rewrite history, still.

Also, he’s now tied with Fernando Alonso as the driver with most total points scored with 1778 points (so far).

Won’t be long until he pulls away and takes the lead.

He beat pole-sitter, WDC leader and bookies’ favourite Lewis Hamilton.

Prior to the race, pundits were salivating at the thought of Lewis Hamilton finally taking sole ownership of “The most successful driver in Hungaroring”, a record which he currently shares with Michael Schumacher. When he took pole position in his dominant Mercedes, practically everyone thought that it was all but a done deal. Well, well. Isn’t it quite fitting that it was Vettel—Schumacher’s protégé—who spoiled the party, in a Ferrari at that, and effectively preserved Schumi’s Hungaroring joint-record (at least for now)?        

He dedicated his victory to the recently-passed on Manor GP driver Jules Bianchi.

Who says he’s ruthless/heartless/selfish? His spontaneous and earnest message to the team post-race, especially the part about Jules Bianchi was nothing short of heart-wrenching. Pass me a tissue, please.

 

All of that and yet, Sebastian Vettel is still obviously, massively underappreciated.

Here is a driver that is the only one even remotely close to challenging, and possibly reaching Michael Schumacher’s daunting F1 records, and yet he is still mainly associated with trivial things such as “The Finger” and “Multi 21-gate”.

I don’t understand why some people still choose to see the Darth Vader and not the Anakin Skywalker in him.

Denial? Crab mentality? Or is it ultimately fear of the genius/potential in him that he is yet to unleash?

My take is that this season has been a gamechanger for Sebastian. We’re now seeing a more mature, humbler, generally-better iteration of him. Adversity has become his friend. Vettel is in a middle of a…metamorphosis. It may not be such good news to his rivals but it certainly is a fascinating watch for us fans.

Luckily, his supporters are the Ride Or Die-kind. He doesn’t need to become Mr. Popular to prove his mettle. He is here to stay and fight. Deal with it, haters. At the end of the day, history will decide what sort of driver he is, and he will only fit between two categories: One of the Greats, or The Best There Ever Was.

So just do you, Seb. The rest shall fall into place.

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 *Yes, I am well aware that “underappreciated” is not in the dictionary. It was a conscious choice to use the word as it best fits and gives the most emphasis to the context of the article.

 

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Dear Jules,

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This is not okay.

You were one of us. You had so much talent. You had so much potential. So many possibilities were ahead waiting for you.

I couldn’t really call myself as your “fan”, but I liked you and I respected your racing talents. I cannot and do not want to compete with the outpouring of glowing tributes to you. I just want to express that you did matter to me, and that your passing has made an impact on me.

And I am sad. Heartbroken. Devastated, even. This is not okay.

You were taken much too early. It’s not fair. Then again, life rarely is.

Perhaps you are merely a lap ahead. Perhaps your time really was up. Please watch over all of us from your prime seat up there.

I am not good with goodbyes.

Rest in peace.

The Iker Casillas Saga: When Parting Is Not Sweet Sorrow.

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Iker Casillas has left the building.

The Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, that is.

It was one of the longest drawn-out goodbyes/breakups in recent football history.  And boy, was it messy. Predictably, a sizeable amount of Real Madrid fans are still on meltdown mode.

I am not a Real Madrid supporter. I do, however, admire and dare I say it, love some of their past and current players. They are a very interesting team to watch, and they are probably the biggest Reality Show in Football (N.B. There also have been comparisons made with Game of Thrones, and really, they are not far wrong).

I have expected Iker’s departure for months now; the only question was to which club he will end up in. The Arsenal rumours were there for a long time, until they managed to snag Petr Cech from Chelsea which effectively put them out of the running. Roma, Fenerbache and a few other clubs were tossed around, but none of those apparently made the grade. Then came Porto.

It’s almost a strange joke by destiny; Iker ending up with the Portuguese club that is so strongly linked with Jose Mourinho—the Special One, a.k.a that Manager he famously fell out with during his tenure at Real Madrid (and possibly, that became the tipping point of everything). Not quite a few scratched their heads at this. Porto? The Portuguese League? Iker Casillas is a World Cup/2x European Champion for Spain and has had more than his fair share of titles and cups with Real Madrid. So how come no bigger club has taken an interest in him?

How did it all come to this?

One side of it is, Iker—nay, San Iker—wants us to believe that he has been unceremoniously pushed out from the beloved club he has dutifully served for 25 years. He was cheated financially, bullied, and pressured from all sides. The president and the board has allegedly mounted a multi-season smear campaign against him and despite his repeated wishes to stay on and fight for a place in the starting lineup, he was simply not wanted anymore. The now-infamous interview of his parents in El Mundo revealed juicy details that make up wet dreams of British tabloids.

(Sidebar: What bothered me most about that El Mundo interview was the bit where it was revealed that Iker has been estranged from his family for years now due to monetary/personal reasons. How come this hasn’t been picked up by the press sooner? Or perhaps I just missed it somehow?)

Conversely, the club wants us to believe that the Saint the public adores is not really a Saint but just a regular, even greedy footballer that got too big for his boots and tried to take on a club that has nurtured him for most of his career. The nerve! He was good, became a great and then throughout time, somehow turned …toxic. He leaked secrets, pushed out a manager and fellow players, and slowly became a symbol of division.   

There are three sides to this story: Iker’s, the Club’s and the Truth. Sadly, it seems we will never truly know the real score.

To quote Cersei Lannister-Baratheon, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.”

Perhaps Iker should have demanded Trial by Combat instead, because he sure got mercilessly battered and lost the Public Trial that ensued.

Tears were unabashedly shed by Iker as he read his farewell statement—alone, and the event was simply attended by photographers and journalists. Not the ideal sendoff befitting a player of his caliber. Predictably, backlash ensued not just from the RM fans but from football fans in general, and so a “proper” farewell was arranged by having him stand in the middle of the Bernabeu pitch with the trophies he has won and letting fans inside the stadium for him to say adios to. Let us not forget the mini testimonial, and then photo calls with the President, holding his “Legacy Shirt” and being forced to put on smiles as though he means them.

It was a ridiculous and insulting charade and we all know it.

Perhaps Iker can take comfort from the fact that this was not the first time this has happened to a football player, and this will certainly not be the last.

Screw or be screwed. Sad, but this sums up the business of Football in this age.

Can time really heal all wounds? We shall see.

At the back of my mind, I think there will come a time when Iker will return to the Bernabeu; he will don the club shirt yet again and maybe play in one of the Corazon Charity Matches with his former colleagues. He will be glad to be back and put the ghosts of the past behind him, but for now, he needs to live with the choices he has made and start over.

Meanwhile, the fans can busy themselves expressing all their hatred and obscenities at Perez, but in the end, they will still buy their match tickets and the replica shirts of the new players. They will fill the stadium and resume singing the club songs. They will make new legends of fresh, unsuspecting players. They will perhaps remember Iker in passing and think, “He was good, and he was one of us.”

And life in the Santiago Bernabeu will go on.