Bill Shankly, Liverpool’s legendary manager, half-jokingly once said: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that”. Die hard football fans might agree with the much revered Shankly, and if twitter was active back in the 1960’s a lot of people would’ve retweeted, favorited, and commented on his strong statement, but when it comes to one’s health, which is the real life and death issue, football and everything else becomes secondary.
No doubt it has been a tough summer for Barcelona fans all over the world. Guardiola’s public spat with Tito Vilanova and Sandro Rosell, along with Thiago’s detrimental departure, and the controversial fee paid for Neymar have surely taken a toll on all cules. And now Tito’s cancer relapse devastatingly left us thinking about everything but football.
In one season Vilanova managed to achieve a club record of 100 League points, in addition to the best start in the history of La Liga, 14 wins and 1 draw in the first 15 games. A lot of people might argue about his tactical awareness, or his ability to fill the big void left by his friend of 27 years, Pep Guardiola. But no one can ever doubt his love for football, his club, and it’s players, and now unwillingly he has to stop doing what he loves and take a step away from whom he loves and concentrate on his treatment. Coaching at the highest level, and cancer treatment do not go along. Football demands a lot: Demands that might consume all his resources; Resources that are needed by his body to win this monumental battle.
Speaking to the press yesterday, and after announcing Tito’s imminent departure, Club president Sandro Rosell said:” Life goes on. Obviously this is a hard blow to take, but Barca has suffered many blows in our history and we have always come through. This will be no different”. Concluding with a plea to the media:”I am asking you all for understanding. Think first about the people involved and then the club. I want to ask you for maximum respect for him and his family”. A brief and meaningful message, not only for the media, but to the whole world of football. Respect and solidarity should be shown to a man who is only 44 years of age, but with the burden of fighting a malignant cancer on his shoulders.
Messages of support arrived from all over the world. Abidal, Messi, Muniesa, Thiago, Pau Gasol, Llorente, Negredo, Falcao, Mata, Deulofeu, Gary Lineker, Reina, Blatter, Cazorla, and Morata all sent their best wishes for our courageous manager. Even clubs such as Milan, Bilbao, Real Madrid, and Chelsea offered unity with what Tito is about to face.
One thing is certain now, Tito will be replaced as head coach of FC Barcelona. Many names have been circulating in the media since Rosell’s unwelcomed announcement yesterday, but nothing formal has been announced. Whomever is announced as Barca coach should gifted the support, confidence and belief of all Barcelona supporters, in order for the club to move forward and overcome this emotional shock, at least for the time being.
Many of us Cules will cry, but there should be a great deal of resolve and calmness to accompany Tito in his ongoing battle. Let’s think of him as a winner, a fighter, a down-to-earth individual who will conquer this fight. Sorrow and despair are demoralizing, but not everlasting.