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Colour Commentary: Athletes do not need to be loyal

by Nicholas Di Giovanni August 28, 2018
Colour Commentary: Athletes do not need to be loyal

Fans need to realize players aren’t bound to their teams

Should athletes be loyal? No, athletes do not need to be loyal to their teams, it’s as simple as that.

For anyone who follows soccer, there were three separate cases of “unloyal” players this summer. First, Brazilian forward Malcom was set to sign with AS Roma from French club Bordeaux on July 23, with Roma even announcing the signing on their website. The next day, while fans waited at the airport in Rome, Malcom received another offer from Barcelona, and accepted to sign with the Spanish club. Just like that, Malcom turned his back on Roma to join Barcelona.

Just a week later, Italian defender Leo Bonucci returned to the club that he left a year ago. Bonucci played with Juventus for seven years before leaving to join rival AC Milan last summer. He even scored in an away game against Juventus last season, and celebrated in front of his former fans. When Milan finished in seventh place, Juventus won the league and then signed superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, Bonucci left Milan to return to Juventus, leaving both Juventus and Milan fans unhappy.

Finally, Belgian goalie Thibaut Courtois left Chelsea for Real Madrid. Sounds like a simple move for the average soccer fan, but during Courtois’ unveiling ceremony in Madrid, he kissed the Real Madrid badge and said,“I’ve never felt like kissing a club badge until today.” It’s not Chelsea fans who were upset by this, although some did call him a snake on Twitter, but Atlético Madrid fans — Real’s cross-city rivals — the club Courtois played for from 2011 to 2014, who were angry.

So between Malcom, Bonucci and Courtois, did any of them have to be loyal? It’s easy to argue Malcom should have kept his agreement with Roma. But that’s business, and who hasn’t bailed on one opportunity to pursue a greater one?

As for Bonucci and Courtois, sports fans create this false loyalty that they believe players must follow, as if they’re bound to the same employer their whole career. Bonucci can bounce between clubs as much as he likes, especially if he sees a better opportunity with his former team. For an athlete, ditching your former team and celebrating in front of their fans is not the most respectful thing to do, but that doesn’t mean the athlete can’t return to their old team. And I seriously don’t understand why Atlético fans are so upset about Courtois when he last played for them four years ago, and he’s been with Chelsea ever since. He can kiss whichever badge he wants.

Like any other person in the real word, athletes are not bound by loyalty to their teams. Sports is a business, and some fans need to realize that.

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