The Biggest Players Needn't Have The Biggest Egos

Last updated : 14 July 2009 By Dan Buxton

I had the idea for this week’s fan’s view column while watching Stoke embarrassingly defeated at North West Counties Premier Division side Newcastle Town in a pre-season friendly on Sunday afternoon. Though the fare served up by Stoke on the pitch was little short of dire, one moment in the second half of the match went a long way to make up for it. With around ten minutes left to play, Potters captain in waiting Abdoulaye Faye, who had been substituted shortly after half-time, strolled round the Lyme Valley Stadium pitch, provoking a round of applause from the appreciative Stoke fans.

I was impressed, thinking it was good of him to take this lap of honour, to give the fans a chance to see him at the close quarters allowed by the tight non-league ground, but what happened next amazed me. He hopped over the barrier and into the area where the Stoke supporters where most densely gathered, and sat down right amongst us to watch the end of the match. He knew full well that he’d instantly be swamped by people wanting autographs and photos, but he did it anyway, and was more than happy to respond to every one of them. This was a wonderful gesture to see.

He recognised that the fans who voted him an almost unanimous player of the season last year pay a lot of money to watch their club, and would be thrilled to have a chance to meet him close up. It was wonderful to see him giving something back to the fans, returning the respect and appreciation that we have given him. He didn’t have to do it, if he hadn’t done no-one would have been angrily asking. “why didn’t Abdoulaye Faye sit in with the fans for the second half?”, but he chose to do it, putting aside his personal discomfort at being mobbed by fans to brighten the day of the people who at the end of the day make a football club what it is, the supporters.

Somehow I can’t imagine Cristiano Ronaldo, who until his recent move to Real Madrid was probably a hero to the five percent of Manchester United fans who know anything about football to about the same level Faye is to Stoke fans, doing something like this. Slimy, moody and arrogant, he clearly lacks the common touch that was so wonderful to see from Abdoulaye. This is a great shame.

The vast majority of football fans, me definitely included, strongly dislike Ronaldo, usually citing his cocksure manner and clear self-centredness as the reason for this. I will though grudgingly admit that he is a truly excellent footballer. In this position as one of the best players of the world’s most popular sport, he holds a huge amount of influence over hundreds of millions if not billions of people. Through a few moments of selflessness and good grace he could become well liked as a person around the world, and not just for his footballing ability, as well as convincing young people everywhere that respect for and appreciation for the fans should be important to footballers. If all the best players could be a little more like Abdoulaye, the footballing world would be a much better place.

by Alec Vjestica