Colour commentary: Ego gets in the way in sports

Colour commentary
Sports Editor Nicholas Di Giovanni gives his take on his latest in sports with his weekly Colour Commentary

Kepa Arrizabalaga just another example of player-first mentality

Sports fans around the world witnessed one of the most outrageous incidents in a soccer game on Feb. 24. In the Carabao Cup final—one of England’s cup tournaments—between Chelsea and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium, Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri wanted to substitute his goalkeeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga, for back-up Willy Caballero.

The game was tied 0-0 in the 120th minute and set to go to penalties. Sarri saw Kepa cramping up, and wanted to take him off before the penalty shootout. Instead, when the coach signalled to his goalie to change, Kepa, who signed for a world-record fee of over US$75 million last summer, simply refused. The keeper told Sarri he would stay on the pitch.

This is Sarri’s first season managing the club, and earlier that week, he was already unsure about his future with Chelsea. Once the goalie refused to change, Sarri lost his temper, started yelling at his staff and players on the bench, and walked towards the door, as if he was lquitting his job, but ultimately returned to the bench.

Kepa won the argument with the manager to stay on, but then his team lost in penalties, 4-3.

It’s understandable why Sarri lost his temper like that. The coach is the head of the team, and no player should ever make, or refuse, a coach’s decision. Of course Kepa wants to help his team win in penalties, and with the money they paid for him, why wouldn’t he? But he has to help his team win by sitting on the bench.

Ego is often too involved in sports now, and some of these athletes forget about the bigger picture: it’s a team sport. I guess these players were never told “no” growing up either.

Kepa also demonstrated that he doesn’t care about his team, his coach, or even his fans. He made an embarrassing decision, which cost his team the game. Luckily for him, Sarri didn’t throw him under the bus in the post-game press conference. Sarri called it a misunderstanding, but responded properly by benching Kepa the next game.

Athletes are role models for kids, and if they see their favourite player disobeying their coach, it’s a toxic influence. These kids will start ignoring their parent’s orders, then their teacher’s, then their boss’s, until we have a world of egomaniacs refusing all rules.

Team sports are all about working with others, and respecting those around you, to achieve a greater goal. If Kepa, or any athlete, refuses to play nice with anyone around him, he should probably play darts.

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