Sometimes what is beautiful in man is resistant to facilitation. I refer to two things: The match yesterday, in which Arsenal toiled at home to a 1-1 draw against our sworn enemy, Tottenham, and the interview Arsène Wenger gave to L’Equipe Sport & Style last week.
Every serious Arsenal fan has been thoroughly exposed to this interview through the various football and Arsenal blogs and outlets, an absolutely extraordinary interview in which Wenger discusses his philosophy, not just of football but of life.
I don’t know how the “Wenger Out” people are taking the interview. They seem to have gone radio silent. But I know how the “Arsène Knows” crowd are reacting: O Captain my Captain.
Not the fallen cold and dead part in Walt Whitman’s famous poem, but the o heart! Heart! Heart! part where the eyes follow the steady keel. It reinforces what we always knew about the man who leads our team. Ok, it’s making me a bit nervous to refer to that poem where the captain dies after achieving glory. Would that a different literary allusion came to mind! Rise up indeed! Better yet, no dying to rise up from, O Captain Wenger. Rise up from wherever you may recline. You know what I mean.
In any case, in the interview, Arsène Wenger explained (emphasis added),
Religiously, it is said that God created man. I am only a guide. I enable others to express what they have within them. I didn’t create anything. I am a facilitator of what is beautiful in man. I define myself as an optimist. My never ending struggle in this business is to release what is beautiful in man. I can be described as naïve in that sense. But it allows me to believe, and I am often proven right.
He also said this:
I don’t want the will to educate to be opposed to the will to win. That makes the educator sound like an idiot. Any manager’s approach must be to educate. One of the beauties of our job is the power to influence the course of a man’s life in a positive way. You and me have been lucky enough to meet people who believed in us and led us forward. The streets are full of talented people but who didn’t have the luck of finding someone who placed their faith in them. I can be the one that facilitates life, that give an opportunity.
You have to conform to the values you believe to be important. If I don’t respect them, I would be unhappy. And in any case, I’ve always been a man who was completely committed to the cause. With my good and my bad sides.
You can read the article in the original French, here. Or if you must have it translated into English (pathétique!), you can read it here, on Arseblog. One of Arseblog’s readers translated it into English so nous can all enjoy it.
This interview reminds us that many of those who cover the sport of football have become trite, predictable, gossipy, and the information they are able to glean from the managers and players reflects this. Managers are either guarded and fail to provide interesting information that will only be twisted by the outlets, or they use the media to disseminate a small and ugly vision. Looking at Mourinho here (as I so often do), before he huffily decided to turn his back on the media until they play his game again.
Speaking of Mourinho, how much longer will I have him to kick around? It’s been strangely quiet in Chelsealand following Chelsea’s loss on Saturday in which Mourinho was serving a stadium ban brought on by him swearing at the referees and refusing to leave their dressing room at half time a few weeks ago. Chelsea dropped a position to 16th in the League because Norwich managed to beat Swansea and move ahead. Will we soon see the white smoke from the chimney that speaks of a new leader? And if so, what will I write about?
But enough of the small talk and small-minded behavior. Fashion is considered shallow by many, and yet this most interesting and thoughtful interview of Arsène Wenger that I’ve ever seen appeared in a sport magazine devoted to fashion. Football outlets, take note….and change.
I am taking note as well. It is Monday, a day of professional reckoning. A day in which it is difficult to even contemplate facilitating the beauty in others. Or to have my own beauty facilitated by someone else.
It’s easy to look at Arsène’s words and say “What you do is not rocket science, my friend. You manage a football team that serves as entertainment for others.” And what I do professionally? It is honorable work that needs doing, but also not rocket science. The world will not be saved by me and what I do at my desk today. But can it be changed? Of course it can. Maybe not in a grand way, but in a small, important way.
Like in advance of the Tottenham match, when Arsène stated his faith in Mathieu Debuchy, playing only because of an injury to Hector Bellerin. Debuchy had shown no reason to engender faith in the past few games, but then put in a beautiful performance against Tottenham. Like when Arsène changed the course of the game by removing a sick and dizzy Santi Cazorla, replacing him with Mathieu Flamini. We fans would have probably said “a dizzy Santi is way better than a fully upright Flamini,” until Arsène showed us how wrong we were. There was no doubt that the energy in the match changed for the better when the much-beleaguered Flamini came into the side. Or when Joel Campbell came off, and in his place came Kieran Gibbs. Gibbs, whose best position is left-back. He hasn’t been good enough to play there, and came in as a midfielder, where he is clearly 7th or 8th in the pecking order. And scored. Not the world’s most beautiful goal; it was nothing more than a scrappy goal. But a goal that gave Arsenal the 1 point it needed to stay tied on points for first position in the League and in second place on goal difference following Man City’s tie to Aston Villa earlier in the day. These are just a tiny subset of the moments for which Arsène has made preparations every day. The beauty he facilitated could certainly have been more, well, beautiful, but there was some present.
So for me, too, on this Monday there is facilitation to be done. Colleagues to be given chances, the benefit of the doubt, and public support. Education to be given. Misperceptions to be clarified. There is work to grind out. New approaches to try, failed approaches to recognize and lose. Ideas to promote that will produce products that help people. There is an important mission to which I may contribute, and own. It may not be as grandiose as being a “facilitator of what is beautiful in man,” but maybe not so very far from that either.
I go off into the international break to facilitate beauty, Wenger style.