“Freefall”

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It’s been a while since I’ve last written about Football. And while this isn’t exactly about Football, a huge part of its raison d’être is due to this seemingly innocuous tweet:

Andres Iniesta–Spain and Barcelona player–is one of my all-time favorite footballers, and when someone of his caliber gives us a glimpse of the workings of his genius mind, then you’d better pay attention.

Please read the above article in full. It is worth it, I promise you.

I never expected to be so affected by its content; I thought I would just get to learn something new from a great footballer,  but I was in tears before I was halfway through the article.

Iniesta has managed to succinctly express what a lot of people are suffering from; what I often feel, in fact.

“Not depression exactly, not illness either, not really, but an unease,”
“It was like nothing was right.”

He needed help; he talks about being “on edge”, “vulnerable”, “victim of something that terrified me”.

Iniesta says he had felt as if he was in “freefall”.

The moment I saw that word was the moment I started to cry.

Have you ever had that moment when an epiphany hits you like a ton of bricks? That was one for me. A single word that encapsulated how I feel.

Freefall. We all experience that internally at some point in our lives. We exist, we function, we feel, we socialize, but nothing ever feels right. We question others, we question ourselves, we question our worth, and before we know it, it has become a perverse game we reluctantly, but regularly play.

“I know what’s it like, Andres. I know what it’s like.” My mind concurred as I continued to read the article.

Some would choose to easily dismiss these revelations and focus on the fact that he’s a world-famous footballer with enormous wealth and a myriad of honors. Boo-fricking-hoo. But he is human, just like the rest of us, and no amount of money or trophies can be a panacea for a broken or hurting psyche.

Imagine if Iniesta hadn’t done something about his struggle. The World Cup 2010 Final and the whole history of Football would have been extremely different. But he did overcome the darkness, and now that he has spoken up about it, perhaps many more others will be inspired to win their battles, too.

I never thought I could admire Iniesta more, but somehow, I have a newfound respect for him.

There are good days and bad days, but every day teaches me something. I cannot stress enough the importance of self-care and self-love.

If you, in any way, have been affected by this: Talk to family. Talk to friends. Consult a professional, if need be. Find an outlet. Do things that make you happy. Prioritize yourself: The people who love you the most want you to love yourself. Take it one day at a time. Life can be terrible and difficult but it is also wonderful and extraordinary. You are going to be all right. Breathe.

Gravity is not so bad. It’s better to hit the bottom and feel the full impact rather than be in a constant, endless state of freefall.

Only you can save yourself. You lead life; it does not lead you.

Go and have your Iniesta World Cup Moment. I am rooting for you.

V-Powered.

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V is the Roman Numeral equivalent for 5. Last month, I was informed by WordPress that I have been a blogger for officially five years now. Five! That’s half a decade! Where has the time gone?

V stands for Verbosity: Brevity is something I often struggle with, but by now I have embraced verbosity like a long-lost friend. Why keep things short when it’s so much more fun to play with words and experiment with different ways of storytelling?

V is for Verve: I do not do things halfway. When I love, I love hard. And I hope that most (if not all) of my posts reflect that.

I started this blog simply as a repository for all my Football- and Racing-related thoughts. Oh, and of course to share my love for them (in all their strange/curious glory). Most of the blogs that I’ve browsed during the time I started ranged from trying-too-hard-to-be-professional-journalists to hardcore-fangirling-which-is-bordering-on-being-cringeworthy. I just wanted to keep it real, be myself, make people smile and maybe even possibly say, “Yes, that’s what I think, too!” As someone who lives too much inside her head with a galaxy of thoughts and constantly gets ideas faster than the speed of light, I thought it would be rather therapeutic (albeit a bit risky) to keep a public record of them.

Who knew such a random decision would turn out to be so…serendipitous?

I never realized just how much the blog was going to grow; how many countries my posts were going to reach; and how many people my writing was going to inspire/help/touch/affect.

With this blog, I’ve met so many amazing people, I’ve learned so much and most important, I’ve shared parts of myself that I didn’t even know I could.

Yes, there were a few times when I went all dramatic/existential crisis-esque and wondered, “Why am I still doing this? What is the point, even?” and considered packing it all up and closing the blog, but whenever I see the small, but loyal readers that keep coming back, I realize that this little blog do matter for a select audience, and for that, I am Very grateful.

So thank you. Thank you for taking the time to visit this blog and to read this post (and possibly some of my other posts, too). I can not give you back the time you’ve lost for it, but hey, I’ll wish good karma and bouncebackability for you instead, how about that?

Kidding aside, your support (no matter how small) has been invaluable. It is enriching and humbling at the same time.

The five years went by in a blink of an eye. It really is true that time flies when you’re having fun.

There is still so much ahead, not just for me but for all of us; because you are part of this, too. “Possibilities” is such a wonderful word, isn’t it? So hold on tight, this wonderful journey is far from over yet.

And if you’re thinking of starting your own blog based on your personal passions? Go on and do it. You shall grow and evolve in ways you can never imagine. Trust me.

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.

 

Disappointment.

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It’s one of the worst feelings, ever.

You’ve wanted it so much for that person/team that you almost feel as if you are them.
It’s their shot at history, to be recognized not just as a simple ‘good’, but as a great.

The gravity of it is so enormous you’re not quite sure how to process it.

You await the match with equal parts anticipation and consternation. Watching it is almost an out-of-body experience. Every second feels like an eternity. Every chance, a link in that chain known as a life-changing moment.

You smile. You laugh sarcastically. You roll your eyes. You cuss. You judge.

“You should have done this!”
“You should have went after that!”
“What’s happening to you?!”

You feel parts of your body aching that you never knew could ache so much.

You pray. You’re desperate. A miracle would be welcome. Yet, it doesn’t arrive.
You stare at the result in disbelief. You wait for it to sink in. You may even cry a tear or two. You curse and ask what you (or better, them) have done to deserve this misfortune. You want numbness to just overcome your very being.

You wish you didn’t care this damn much.

You take a deep breath. Sleep it off.

And tomorrow, you will move on with your life.

The Mystery of (Sporting) Love.

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Why do we love who we love? Why do we allow ourselves to be subjected to the madness and agony of one-sided, unrequited love? Is the need to vicariously put our hopes and dreams on an individual or a team brain-based, or must we always blame it on the sentimentality of our hearts?

It’s a funny thing, sporting love. Some find it instantaneously/spontaneously, while for some, it is a slow burn. It’s a mixture of both for me. Never the same love twice, and all that. Having favourites is fun. And when your favourites end up as your sporting HGs, then it gets even better. What I do have to point out though, is that it is never about popularity nor notoriety for me. I was not, and will never be, a bandwagoner. Sure, the history aspect plays a part, but it is not necessarily a dealmaker nor a dealbreaker. The sportspersons/teams/clubs I support and unashamedly profess my love for are an interesting mixture of legends, legends-in-the-making, underdogs, the criminally-underrated, and yes, even some overrated ones.

Call it what you want–the X Factor, the spark, charisma, je ne sais quoi, star quality–I personally prefer the term “magic”. Yes, that’s what I saw in them all. Magic. That’s what got me hooked. It’s not the looks or the stats or the hype. It’s that special alchemy of terrific talent and human flaws that compel me to genuinely care.  Because really, what is the point of getting emotionally-invested to the point of absurdity if they are nothing short of magical to you?

Are they worth the effort/time/trouble? Sometimes no, but more often than not, absolutely. Love is crazy, annoying, unpredictable, frustrating, exhilarating. It has the power to make you or break you. Would you have had it any other way? Hell no.

So never apologize for loving who (or what) you love in a sporting context. All feelings are valid, no matter how simple or monumental they may be. Ironically, it should not be a competition, either. How are we supposed to even accurately measure the depth, intensity, and legitimacy of one’s sporting love? Better to just accept that to each their own, no judgments.

Own it. Flaunt it. Celebrate it. And let everyone know how gloriously liberating true and sincere (sporting) love is.

Ride Or Die.

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For some reason, or strange divine machination, you found him. Or her. Or them. They had talent. And charisma. Je ne sais quois. That valuable, intangible something. And you were mesmerized, enthralled even.

You decide to support them. To profess a certain level of “love” for them. Come what may, you will be there for them, cheering, sending positive vibes from a thousand miles away and defending them from critics and naysayers.

Time passes.

What happens when your hero shows signs of weakness, of mortality?

They stopped winning after years of domination. Cheated on their partner. Left your beloved club/team. Transferred to a rival club/team you absolutely despise. Media exposed a nasty habit/vice. Still haven’t won a title despite years of trying. Said the wrong thing on social media. It could be one big thing or a thousand, smaller things that piled up.

Disappointment consumes you. Heartbreak of epic proportions. You seriously question your devotion. Maybe you should move on. Maybe you have outgrown them. Maybe it is time to live in reality. Is this what falling out of love feels like?

You stop and think. You remember why you supported them in the first place. You smile. You feel like crying. There were good and bad times. But you wouldn’t trade all those memories for anything in the world. Abandoning them because of their faults won’t make them any lesser beings. It’s all on you.

In the end, you throw all caution to the wind. Get your shit together. You are not a fairweather fan. You are better than that. Who are you to judge? You are not perfect. You know the power of empathy. You choose to love your heroes because of their weaknesses, not inspite of them.

Heroes are not meant to be flawless. Perfection is boring and overrated.

Heroes are meant to be fallible. Heroes are meant to be human.

Heroes are meant to be as real as they can be.

And somehow, even though some things may change, some things in your heart will always stay the same.

Advert of the Day: Coatgate Comes To An End.

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Shame on you, Nike*. And massive, MASSIVE props to you, Puma.

*Just in case you need reminding of the struggle Wenger has had against his old Nike jacket…

ARSENE-WENGER-JACKET

qzV6U

 

Now that the zipper has been conquered, Arsene Wenger can now focus (almost all of) his brain power on conquering The Special One…

P.S. Who knew Wenger had a sense of humour? Although I bet he’s not laughing anymore after recently losing a 3-0 lead and ending up with a 3-3 draw vs Anderlecht in the Champions League (sorry, couldn’t resist)…