Monday, December 5, 2011
Javi Poves - the disillusion of Football
This story took place in August earlier this year, but it didn’t make huge headlines because it obviously didn’t involve a big-name player or a big-name club. It made the news in some places, but should have gotten more exposure as it somewhat demonstrates the sad state that Football finds itself in through the eyes of lower league professionals that are often ignored.
Javi Poves was a 24 year old defender, playing for Sporting Gijon's B team which plays in Spain's lower leagues, when he decided to quit the game and call time on his career. Retiring at 24 from Football isn’t something we hear every day. It wasn’t because of an injury or any illness whatsoever; it was simply for ethical reasons. According to Poves: “Professional Football is just money and corruption; it is capitalism, and capitalism is death. The more you know about Football, the more you realize it is all about money, that it is rotten and this takes away your enthusiasm. What point is there in earning 800 or 1000 euros if you know that you are obtaining it through the suffering of many people”. His disillusion with the game is cited as the main reason for his decision as he felt the game was no longer morally correct. He refused to have his salaries transferred to a bank account so that banks don’t speculate with this money, and he also refused the keys to a car that was given to him by one of the club’s sponsors. Unthinkable acts in the modern age of Football and especially given Europe’s current financial climate.
His decision to retire for such a reason can be viewed through two different aspects.
On one hand, socialists might view him as a hero. A down-to-earth young man making a stand against a sport that is slowing becoming corrupt by the money that surrounds it. Poves’ decision can be seen as further evidence of how much Football has changed; a claim which has been well-documented by pundits, writers and all those living in yesteryear when it comes to our game. They call it “a sign of the times”, amongst other names. This retirement by a young footballer in the lower leagues demonstrates once more how overwhelmed by money the game has become that those below the elite few are being completely disregarded and slowly sinking away. It may be a little extreme, but it isn’t completely wrong for Poves’ act to be seen as such. Seeing the rich clubs getting richer must be a bitter pill to swallow for lower league sides, and especially for lower league players who have the ambition to make it “big”. The gulf in talent between the clubs has become so huge nowadays, that it isn’t difficult to imagine players at a lower level realizing that there’s no hope for them to go further. With advertising, billionaire-owners and prima-donna footballers all getting a bigger piece of the pie since Bosman’s ruling (click here), there are those in the background being forgotten and Javi Poves has reminded us all that something is very wrong with the way Football is being “played”. The fields of play are no longer even.
On the other hand, Football modernists, who have moved along with the new-found era and accepted the changes within the game as positive ones, can simply view his decision as an acceptance of failure. A refusal to accept the competitive nature of Football, as well as its global surroundings and demands. Football has become a business, we all agree, but at the end of the day it's still 11 players vs 11 players in 90 minutes, and anything can happen. Perhaps for Poves the knowledge that this was his peak and it wasn’t going to get any better than this for him at 24 years old meant that he would rather "burn out than fade away". Maybe even a refusal to push himself, as an athlete and a footballer, to the limits knowing that there could be a possibility someday in the future to make the grade and join a “bigger” club; or that maybe someday his club could climb up the league ladder. But some Football modernists might simply just see this as a lazy statement; one of falling out of love with the game. Just like with any relationship, that between the player and the game does have its ups and downs and Poves' didn't want to deal with any conflict. He ended the relationship. With the knowledge that unemployment in Spain, alongside the current crisis which engulfs the continent, is reaching ridiculous levels, how “gracious” is it that a footballer quits his job? A job that could well open the doors to many financial opportunities in the future. It's a topic that's open for debate.
In a parting shot at other footballers, Poves stated that “there are certain personalities at a World level, Pele, Ronaldinho, Messi, who are ambassadors for UNICEF and who on the face of it are very good, but they could do much more”. It’s hard to disagree with that, knowing the salaries that footballers and other iconic figures in the game are earning, they surely could do much more. But footballers don’t have any moral obligation to do that, though we are told the opposite. It is admirable that some of them do help and, as Poves says, could do much more – but are the acts, or rather the lack of them, of those at the top level of the game a reason to end your career? Shouldn't being on the same field of work as these individuals motivate a fellow professional to strive to reach the same level? A lot of questions could be asked about Poves' decision as it is remains a perplex, yet admirable, one. One thing that might happen though is that he might just have opened a window in the skies to encourage others who seem to have lost the love for the beautiful game to look for greener pastures away from the green grass we've come to love.