Okay, really my silence for more than the usual number of days was that we were travelling to Kentucky to visit family. My father passed away earlier this year and there are still many tasks to be done. Most importantly, to be together. I tried to write from the car using my phone, but I realized that it would be good to spend time with the people travelling with me. Being locked in a car with your kids and spouse produces a unique time for communication that is not available every day.
But with regard to Diaby, we certainly all saw this coming, seeing as he was out of contract at the end of last season. It’s been a bittersweet 9 years, mostly bitter, but those few sweet moments were very sweet indeed. He had a talent that his body just couldn’t support, ultimately the injuries coming faster and faster and lasting longer and longer, and all without the provocation that was required early in his career. Early on, when he’d come back onto the field after a long absence it was often like a cool drink in the desert. That was why Wenger could famously say about his eventual return that it was “like a new signing.” Indeed it would have been, were it possible to get more than a few hours out of him before a new injury would inevitably occur.
Ultimately the team that worked better when he was in it was remade and he became extraneous, a piece of the puzzle that couldn’t be made to fit. When Wenger spoke last season about remaking him as a defensive midfielder, you knew that was probably curtains. He had a few anonymous minutes this season across just a couple of outings.
Although it’s perfectly understandable that his contract not be renewed, it’s still sad to see such a talent fail to reach its potential, mostly through no fault of Abou Diaby. The following video shows a glimpse of what he had to offer on one of his finer days against Liverpool. If you don’t know which player is Abou Diaby, a clue is that if you see someone do something clean, beautiful, or impossible, that’s Diaby.
I was thinking about Diaby while watching Japan v. England on Wednesday evening. That sickening moment where England defender Laura Bassett stabbed the ball off the goalpost and into her own goal with the score tied and time running out was a fresh reminder of the nature of risk. The best of intentions and the best of the decisions one might make can still produce unintended consequences. The pass from Nahomi Kawasumi to an onrushing Yuki Ogimi was inch perfect and Bassett had to make a snap decision. None of the decisions available were slam dunks and every one required an element of risk. If the ball from her foot had found itself a few inches higher or wider, the game would have gone to extra time. England, who had the better of play for most of the match, would possibly have made it into the final. But that is not how it played out. And now Bassett and England must pick themselves up and play for third against a tough Germany team. And I hope they give it their all, both England and Germany.
And Abou Diaby–well, he must pick himself up as well. Possibly, he’ll never play professional football again. I hope that whatever he does from here brings him joy, joy close to the joy of that Liverpool game, where things went so right. Until then, he’ll need to get up everyday and make his bed. And take risks, the same kinds of risks that put him where he is today. And move forward. Same as Laura Bassett. And same as all of us.
And now it’s time to plan an impromptu hamburger cookout for 20.