1995 World Player of the Year pays a fresh tribute to Arsene Wenger in FIFA Interview
It has been a strange few days, looking at my timeline and all the Pep Guardiola to Arsenal talk while the greatest manager the side has ever had is still on contract for another one and a half seasons. This is not going to be a ramble about Wenger the manager or Wenger the astute transfer market operator because those are over used angles these days. The managerial merry go round is spinning faster than ever but I hope Arsenal are not a part of it. Why would any supporter in their right minds not dream of Pep Guardiola as their manager, you may wonder? Read on to find out.
When I first started supporting the Arsenal, it had a lot to do with the football they played but also something about the manager around at the time. Those who caught my eye back in the first season I watched any EPL matches of note were Arsene Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho. Three very different individuals- a fiery Scotsman who was already a legend beyond reproach for any EPL fan, a somewhat narcissistic Portuguese man who looked like he had something foul smelling put under his nose and finally our Arsene, who looked much better than both of them and had much better manners with the media. Sir Alex obviously had an aura too, that of success and surety, but to me he looked more like a bully than anything else, while Jose was simply the villain in my mind, and it didn’t help that Chelsea were literally buying their way into the league as if it was a poker table.
In my eyes, Arsene Wenger was the man with the heart and the mind to lead the club of my life. Every opinion he gives is an analysed but honest response, and the knowledge he holds in that head is vast- which is the reason that media outlets regularly ask him his opinions on things outside of football. People want to hear what Wenger has to say, and that is because what Wenger says makes sense more often than not and provides a way of looking at things which is refreshing. Every year the Arsenal AGM is turned into a Wenger show, why? Not because Wenger is a narcissist. It is because when he decides to hold centre stage he can easily do so with his charisma, charm, wit and understanding of human nature.
He is a truly global citizen having accepted and lived in cultures from France to Japan and imbibed qualities of each one, plus being a polyglot his intellect has never been in question. Listening to him speak about his players and their qualities one can easily make the assumption that Wenger uses pompous and flowery language at times because it is not his mother tongue that he is speaking in, but that is not the case. The language we speak sheds light on our state of mind- positive, negative, honest, false, grand etc. Arsene Wenger has a world view radically different to other small minded manager (with due respect to all manager), because very obviously things such winning or losing do not make an impact on him easily. He has supreme self confidence in himself and when he chooses to pass that onto his players he does that very successfully.
Time and again we find pieces on the internet talking about his various qualities and acts, such as this one from 7amkickoff about the time he decided to take Boro Primorac along with him to Nagoya Grampus in Japan despite the man being hated by all of France for taking down the Marseille set up which had denied Wenger’s Monaco the crown of champions of France through bribery. Incidentally the piece 7amkickoff also quotes, is one by Eamon McCann titled “Arsene Wenger can teach us all a lesson in decency”, an excellent piece on why we should all be supporting Arsenal for the title this year. Boro Primorac was the whistle blower in that case and all of French football shunned him for his honesty, all but Arsene Wenger. If that name sounds familiar to you that is because Primorac is currently first team coach at Arsenal now. This incident paints a picture of Wenger as a man with morals and a code of conduct which he will never break, always supporting the good people who need support- standing up for what is good in man. It may sound like I am putting Wenger on a pedestal but I am not, his failing as Arsenal manager are still there and will be but he cannot be called anything less than a good person. It is just that Wenger has a world view more akin to that of a true world leader or that of a philosopher from ages past, Arsene is a man from a different time.
Weah and Bergkamp pay tribute to Arsene in this 98 video above
This video from FIFA’s official website talks to George Weah and his achievements in football, and interestingly enough Weah takes time out to single out Wenger as the man responsible for it all. There is not an exact transcript of course, but here is what Weah had to say about Wenger. Note that this transcript contains Weah’s words from two different times- one when he was awarded the World player of the year award and one set of quotes from when he was interviewed for the video (timing marked beside quote) :
“ This is the man.. I remember his words” George work hard you’re gonna be a good player.” And when I came to Europe he was like a father to me. I want him to keep this [the trophy], I want him to keep this because he deserves it more than I do.” (On the podium receiving his award)
“ Every time I goes on the field, and I was playing for Arsene Wenger I wanted him to know that what he has done for me… this is the way I could pay him (back) , so I could break my knee, my face, my head for him just to win a game. He took care of me like his son and I couldn’t believe it because when racism was at its peak Arsene taught me that a black man and a white man can live together. ” (During interview for the video)
Complete FIFA interview here which cannot be remioved from the FIFA site
There’s something I couldn’t quite understand at the end of Weah’s podium talk, but basically he hands the trophy over to Arsene Wenger who tries not accepting it for a bit before finally giving in with his trademark smile, while looking on at Weah through his famed ‘Professor’ spectacles. If I remember correctly Arsene Wenger was not managing George Weah at the time he won the World Player of the Year award in 1995, he was in Japan with Nagoya Grampus Eight. George Weah was a superstar at the time and already a legend in his homeland of Liberia and considered one of the greatest players to ever come out of the African continent. Now putting both of these pieces of information together, what jumps out at me is that Wenger has always been a man ahead of the crowd in dealing with matters such as racism. Also, he simply is a man better than most Weah had met in his time in the footballing circuit, why else would he rave so much about Arsene? That too years apart.
That is the personality heading our club. A man of honour who has always kept his word to his players and been kind to everyone by choice, a man whose charisma and knowledge could have lead him anywhere else in the world but he chose to come to Arsenal and make it home A manager of truly international outlook, who does not differentiate on nationality or colour but only on talent and skill. Arsene believes in players like Diaby and Wilshere not because he is a fool, but because intrinsically he is a kindred spirit and wants to believe in people and help them get to the best that they can possibly be. He is a perfectionist looking for the best in a man.
Thierry Henry says that Arsene loves it more than anybody else in the world, even the most adamant members of the Arsene Out brigade would struggle to say with any conviction that Arsene has not always acted in the best interests of Arsenal Football Club.
In all probability this is the last manager ever who will stay at any club for 2 decades or more and I for one cannot hope for anybody better than him to take our club forward. As long as there is Arsene Wenger on the rolls at Arsenal, we will be associated with the highest levels of honour, we will be known for our financial independence, for our rejection of doping, for our belief in our players and for class. I want Arsenal to be more than just a football club, and it has been so while Arsene is here. It has been about morals and principles and the pursuit of excellence and art in a sporting medium. Arsene will always be a legend, and the day he moves on we must all be moved by it. That day, however, has not and indeed must not come at the end of this season. The man has seen through every contract he has with us and if this is his last one, we must have the respect to let him go out on his own terms.
COYG. One Arsene Wenger.