Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Anelka asks "what if"?

"Everyone makes mistakes in life and I can say that I made one in leaving Arsenal. That is because things have gone badly for me since then. But I could not know what the future held in store for me. I could have spent my entire career at Arsenal. I took decisions thinking I was doing the right thing. If I had my time again I would do things differently. I made my decisions thinking they were the right ones at the time."

- Nicolas Anelka on what might've been

I wasn't around when Anelka burst onto the scene. My first memory of Anelka was him scoring the winner for Real Madrid in the Champions League final (against Bayern Munich?), after he threw a massive hissy-fit the week before. So, I've no real connection with him from Arsenal. All I have are the vague recollections of gooners who value the past more than the present.

Still, a part of me thinks about what could've been if he hadn't left. We could've achieved so much more if we had a partnership like Henry-Anelka. It would've, could've, should've been amazing. When I think of the two on them together, it stirs uncomfortable feelings in my loins.

But it wasn't to be.

My nurse told me, on the day after, that "she'd be a good one to know in five years time". And, as much as I wanted to accept her sympathy, I shook my head. I have enough trouble keeping my mind on the present, let alone wishing for something in the distant future. What's done is done. Mistakes are made for a reason. We only live to fuck up, and the only reason we keep on living is to fuck it up until we get it right. And I fucked up royally.

What shits me off is that I genuinely do like her. My intentions were good; it's just that my execution was horrible. If I'd done it properly, I might've spent my life with her (although I doubt it). If I'd waited for the right time, if I'd waited for this obsession to subside, if I'd been a bit more rational and a bit less deranged...

But therein lies the pathway to madness.

A major part of growing up is accepting your failures and having the courage to try again. It's something I find really hard to do. Most times, I avoid the issue by not trying too hard. It's easier to take it if it didn't mean so much. But with her, I can't avoid the issue. She means so much to me, and I fucked up so badly.

But as Anelka said, you make your decisions based on your knowledge at the time. I did what I did, and I can't undo it. I've been told to just move on, let it die, let her slide away. There will be other girls and other chances, and maybe the next time, I won't act like a creepy, disturbed lunatic.

Which brings us to Anelka.

Think about it - he's reaching the end of his career and he's starting to realise what he gave up when he left the Arse. He's never going to be loved by anyone other than his family and friends. He'll never be welcomed back as a favourite son. He'll never have the camaraderie of a Premiership winning team. He'll never know that sense of belonging to a particular club. He'll always been known as a mercenary, a nomad, a pay-packet player.

I imagine that after the thrill of the game has died, after the lure of the money has been sated, after the fast-paced lifestyle has slowed down, it's the memories you carry that really count. And I imagine that Anelka's looked at his career and his accomplishments, and realised that he doesn't have any teammates to share his memories with.

Still, Anelka has time left. He's at a top, top club, and is surrounded by top players. He's still got a good three or four years left in him. It's not too late for him to make something of himself at Chelsea, to ingratiate himself at the club, to find that sense of belonging that he's lacked for so much of his career.

It's never too late, Nicky.

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