An Olympic load of balls - Let's hope footballers have learned the Olympic lesson.
It’s all rather quiet at 7DAYS Towers.
All we can hear are the birds tweeting outside along with the annoying hum of the air conditioning - it all seems rather sombre.
We’ve put it down to suffering a post-euphoric depression having seen the Olympic flame extinguished in London, and the resulting realisation that we’ve now got 40 weeks of football to watch.
Growing up, the week prior to the start of the football season used to be second only to the last week of school before summer holidays in terms of excitement levels, causing Mama 7DAYS to worry over our mental wellbeing. We couldn’t wait for the ref’s whistle to blow - we’d got our Panini sticker album out, our replica tops on and predictions at the ready.
However, today finds us completely underwhelmed, to the point of being slightly disinterested, about the Premier League’s return. And not just because the hype surrounding ‘the greatest league in the world EVER’ rarely holds up to much scrutiny - we’ve long got used to the humongous lag between the marketing of the game and reality.
No, what’s really made us ambivalent about the return of Wayne Rooney and Co is the past two and a half weeks we spent glued to the television watching the London Games.
On so many levels the Olympics showed the Premier League what top-level sport should really be about.
Once the events got underway the Games needed no clever marketing, no fancy slogans (well, bar the Faster, Higher, Stronger one...), no PR to speak of really - the action spoke volumes. It was a sporting spectacle at its finest - drama as thrilling and tense as anything lauded in the arts pages and storylines that have made even the most emotionally reticent among us blub like a baby.
There were countless moments when the action in London was a zillion times as thrilling and dramatic as anything likely to be served up in the ‘EPL’ (we hate that term...). From the photo finish in rowing’s men’s lightweight four to Chad Le Clos’ shock win over Michael Phelps in the 200 metres butterfly to David Rudisha’s amazing 800m world record on the track, the Games provided a simple antidote to the hyperbole that usually greets Wigan away at Stoke.
Then there are the protagonists.
Now, we don’t want you to think we hate football, we don’t. But if there’s one thing we can’t stand about the ‘beautiful game’ it is, by and large, the idiots who play it. And in this regard you cannot get a starker contrast than when comparing them to the Olympic heroes of the past few weeks.
We should point out, using the words of Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill, that we are aware that “not all footballers are morons.” However, we think at least 75 per cent are.
All Premier League footballers should, even for just a few minutes, be forced to leave their gold-plated bubble of an existence to get a lesson from Bradley Wiggins and Jessica Ennis in the art of humility after victory.
They also could learn a thing or two from 400 m gold medallist Kirani James about respect, a word Ashley Cole and Co bandy about with wilful ignorance. Having blown his rivals away during the semi-final the great Grenadan took time to embrace ‘Bladerunner’ Oscar Pistorius, who runs on prosthetic legs, and exchange name bibs.
“Oscar is special. It’s a memorable moment for me to be out there competing with him”, said James.
Even though Didier Drogba may have left Stamford Bridge there still exists a horde of cheats in the ‘greatest league in the world EVER’ who’ll think nothing of diving at the merest gust of wind. Ashley Young et al could all learn a thing or two from the USA’s Manteo Mitchell who ran the last 200 metres of his lap of the men’s 4x400 metres relay with a broken leg.
“As soon as I took the first step past the 200m mark I felt it break,” he said. “I didn’t want to let the three guys or the team down, so I just ran on it.” The team still qualified for the final.
Then there’s the sense of entitlement with many footballers that has seen them grow ever more detached from fans and the real world.
Paid astronomical amounts every week and possessing a car collection that would make Enzo Ferrari roll around in his grave with jealously, many players simply have their heads up in the clouds or up their own backsides.
Can we say most of them play for the pride of representing their club or country over the wads of cash they earn? The lack of loyalty in football suggests not. Only last week their were rumours of Ashley Cole demanding $400,000 a week to stay at Chelsea.
Whether true or not, it simply doesn’t sit well with Usain Bolt and Mo Farah training their guts out, not for money, but for the glory of gold and the dream of competing for their countries at an Olympics.
We’re not naïve enough to think that Farah and Bolt aren’t now going to pick up multi-million dollar sponsorship deals (on top of the ones they already have), and that all Olympians are perfect human beings.
But their post-race humility and humour proves them to be sporting stars we can believe in and would want to emulate. You cannot say that about snarling Samir Nasri and his ilk.
All the above could be dismissed as mere snobbery against a game long accustomed to being looked down upon by its more genteel cousins.
However, the Premier League’s problems (and we’ve not even mentioned the fact clubs are now mere toys for Oligarchs and moneyed men) are so glaring in light of what we’ve just witnessed that we hope just a handful of footballers, and the game’s administrators, loved the Olympics as much as we did and are able to tackle the sport’s problems with a sense of gold medal-winning vigor.