Wednesday, August 4, 2010

O Captain, My Captain.

Raul Gonzales Blanco: There are few on the Planet who can match his understanding of the meaning of a Real Madrid badge.
.
“O Captain my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring…
.
…O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribboned wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning…”
.
-excerpts from Walt Whitman's 'O Captain, My Captain'
I’m finding it very difficult to get my head around the fact that Raul has finally left Real Madrid.
.
Amidst the annual summer and winter transfer circuses…
Amidst the comings and going of coaches by the dozen…
Amidst the glory and infamy of many a Presidential Project…
.
Raul Gonzalez Blanco was the one constant in Real Madrid. It really did seem that when God created the idea of a Real Madrid Captain: he was thinking about Raul. Born ‘on the wrong side of Madrid’ (i.e. started out as an apprentice of Atletico), turned out to be a prodigy and then into the Golden Boy of Madrid. He then of course ‘grew into a man’ and into the Captain’s armband – taking over from the emblematic Fernando Hierro. The world saw him develop from a skinny boy wonder – into the symbol of what every Real Madrid player must aspire for: unquestionable in talent, unrelenting in fighting spirit, and above all, an honorable, dignified human being even without the uniform.
.
My being a Madridista has unfortunately no spanned long enough for me to see a scrawny 17-year old Raul make his debut in the ‘17’ jersey. I have instead seen what was pretty much a finished product: tireless effort and running on the pitch, great predatory instincts and an incredible footballing IQ, coupled with just the right level of technical ability to compensate for his lack of athletic gifts (he was never the fastest, strongest or most agile player). Guillem Balague once described him as a 7/10 in terms of the various skills of a footballer… but his overall contributions to his team add up to a 10/10. Through the course of his nearly 2 decades at Real Madrid, he has amassed a CV that very few footballers can ever match.
.
.
Raul was on his way to joining a very exclusive group of one-club of players: reaching not just greatness as an individual footballer but also as a talisman for his club. This is perhaps the reason why many lament his decision NOT to join the likes of Ryan Giggs, Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero and the like… much to the chagrin of many Madridistas.
.
But perhaps this is the Real Madrid way? Real Madrid after all did not see the likes of Di Stefano, Butragueno & Juanito retire in the white shirt. Di Stefano went on to play for Espanyol while Butra & Juanito (Raul’s ‘ancestors’ in the ‘7’ shirt) played a few extra years in Mexico & Malaga respectively. It is true that all of us as fans yearn for a Michael Jordan-in-Chicago-like retirement (championship-winning jumper in the NBA Finals to clinch his 6th title) for one of the greatest footballers our beloved Real Madrid had ever seen. Despite the wonderful prospect of seeing our hero come to a story-book ending, we must accept and respect the warrior spirit in him that still keeps his desire to play on to burn fiercely.
.
We must also accept that Raul has now come to a point in his career where he can no longer be that permanent fixture in Real Madrid’s starting XI... that had he stayed on with the club, he would still be the third choice striker after Higuain and even Benzema... that he would’ve been left to fight for the Copa Del Rey and to fill in during La Liga games for players being rested for an upcoming Champions League match (a tournament he craves so badly to play in). Many of his critics…those who have called him the black hand behind Madrid… were proven wrong last season as Raul gracefully accepted his diminished role in this era of the Florenteam.
.
But his warrior-spirit craved for more. And it is this that has taken him to Germany – to continue his adventure as a PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALLER (instead of choosing to stay in Madrid, and bask in his god-like status from the bench)… to continue to scratch his itch to compete at the highest level (Schalke are after all in the Champions League and have been contenders in the Bundesliga)… turning the Billions of Madridistas the world over to cheer for the Bundesliga’s newest player and newest team: Schalke 07.
.
Perhaps it is sad to see and realize that arguably Spain’s greatest ever footballer only managed to see his countrymen lift the World Cup just as he had lost his place in the National Team. Perhaps it is sad to see him leave at a time when Real Madrid are finally on the brink on assembling a balanced side under the orders of a World Class Manager who has finally been given the control over the team. But mostly many of us are sad to see him take this path because we’ve always thought about what WE wanted for Raul.
.
.
As I’ve spent over a week to ponder this however, I’ve finally gotten to a point where I am now just that he’s happy. And I admire him more now for showing us all just how great his desire is to continue to compete. Florentino is right: this is not a ‘Good Bye’ but a ‘See you Soon’. For us Raul fans, the ‘7’ lives on: we will now actually once again have the chance to see him play every week again and midweek in the Champions League too.
.
And for us Real Madrid Fans the ‘7’ must live on. Enough of this rubbish about retiring the ‘7’. Raul is now part of the heritage and lineage that every Real Madrid player must honor and live up to… and just as he has carried on the legacy of Juanito and Butragueno… so must the next bearer of Real Madrid’s ‘7’.
.
To Raul, from all of us Madridistas… Thank You.
We will be still be cheering on for you… and of course, we await your return.

No comments:

Post a Comment