Football statues – don’t devalue the currency

DAVID SILVA and Vincent Kompany are both excellent footballers and performed outstandingly well for Manchester City (they didn’t serve them, they were paid enormous sums of money). Doubtless, they are already being referred to as “legends”. Both have now left the club and Silva is heading for Real Sociedad in his home country. When any new history of City is written, Silva and Kompany will feature prominently in the club’s golden period.

City have no shortage of players who merit recognition from their history, but a statue should be reserved for the truly great individuals who helped make the club. Such monuments arguably belong to the past. Paintings and monuments, or naming ceremonies were the only way a grateful public or institution could show appreciation for a life of contribution. Today we have Youtube!

In today’s attention-grabbing football landscape, clubs seem over-zealous in their pursuit of looking good and making grand statements. Take Birmingham City’s “retirement” of Jude Bellingham’s number 22 shirt after he was sold to Borussia Dortmund. The 17 year-old (yes 17!) had played just 44 games for the club. Admittedly, the fee the Blues received for Bellingham, around £ 25 million, probably got the Brummies out of a hole, but isn’t this a case of premature adulation?

It really backfired on them as they were criticised for a PR stunt that didn’t work, but it really sums up the over-enthusiasm to make landmarks out of almost anything.

The act of commemoration should be rare, if it is a commonplace event, it is no longer “special” or worthy of widespread celebration. It is possible that nobody will remember who Bellingham is in five years’ time. David Silva, a World Cup winner, will certainly be remembered, but is a statue the right way to remember a hired gun among hired guns, one whose career is still running? Or is it just a case of nice idea but the wrong time?

It does seem as though no club forecourt these days is complete without a statue. Arsenal have been statue-happy since they moved to the Emirates, Chapman, Henry, Bergkamp, Adams and even little Ken Friar. It’s likely that Wenger will join that list at some point and maybe even a member of the 1971 double team.

It was good to see Johan Cruyff has been commemorated by a decent piece of art outside the Ajax stadium. The Dutch master already had a somewhat abstract statue at the Amsterdam Olympic arena, but this new one more accurately reflects what Cruyff was all about.

Cruyff is no longer with us and perhaps this is the most appropriate qualifier for a statue, they should be created and erected to mark achievement and the passing of time. It is part memorial, part reminder and, above all, the glorification of achievement. Similarly, the use of the term “legend” is overused and often a mistake. Legend has become part of the everyday lexicon, used to describe somebody who is highly regarded by others. But even the most run-of-the-mill footballer is called a “legend” if he has simply donned the club’s shirt. I have seen very average players given that tag when their playing record includes less than 100 appearances.

We have seen what happens when history changes course, statues get pushed into the water, icons get daubed in graffiti and defaced. A statue should be a sign of appreciation and great deeds, but in our troubled times, those deeds that will have to stand the test of time and avoid scrutiny.

City can do what they like, it is their call, but will they be erecting statues for other members of their current squad? There’s no denying some people will be delighted that Silva and Kompany will be cast in resin, stone or bronze, but who will be next – will this become a new trend to start sculpting contemporary players to appeal to today’s audience? City may be setting a new precedent.



Photo: PA Images



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