"You cannot gauge a person's state accurately before being in their position, they said." Turns out its true.
Down, but never out - via static.guim.co.uk
Since the day his misfortunes in a Chelsea shirt became visible, his fans have been pleading for sympathy, but I refused every time. I've always held the belief that a person like Torres, who is getting paid so many millions, should be mentally potent enough to shrug off the 'confidence problems'. Every time he played, or rather he tried to, sans much success, I raged within. "What a sorry waste of 100 million quid", I would say to myself.
It took me time, but gradually I came to terms with the fact that now that he's a Chelsea player, he deserves some sympathy, some support. I tried. And I failed. Quite miserably. From a guy who did the 'Danny Sturridge jiggle' right after waking up to the news of Chelsea signing Torres*, to someone who abused him every time he took the field, I had been victim to a horrendous transition, catalysed by pure rage.
*I didn't know much about the King of Awesomeness to be excited by his signing. I'm sorry, but its the truth.
I wept like a madman when he scored against Barca, but contrary to what my brother felt, it wasn't because of Torres, it was the feeling of revenge. But there have been times I've been happy for and with Torres. The 'bicycle assist' for Lampard, the toe-poke goal vs. Newcastle, the chip over De Gea, the list, though short, goes on.
My brother was furious with the commentator suggesting this Monday that Torres shouldn't be brought on as it would do more harm than good. I asked him what wrong did he say, to which my brother replied "Look at all his struggles, show him some [fun]ing goddamned sympathy !" I shrugged his suggestion off as one of his usual "Sympathy for Torres" rants against me. But what I was not to know was that the very next day I would feel something for Torres that I believed I never could. No, not sympathy, but something sounding similar but 100x more dangerous, 'EMPATHY'.
Yesterday, I was playing for my neighbourhood club in a local cup competition. I had been in a rich vein of form, being the leading goalscorer of the tournament so far and scoring and destroying defences with my sheer power and pinpoint finishing at will. But in this final group stage match, something happened. I Torres'd.
I am nicknamed Zlatan among my friends due to ability to turn water into wine (in the footballing sense) but opting to switching off at times showing no work ethic. This particular day, I stepped in, feeling highly confident, with my team playing relative minnows. Right in the first minute I picked out my right winger with a pass and went into the box in a scoring position. A perfectly weighted pass arrived, I had the goal at my mercy with no defender nearby and the 'keeper stranded. What should have been a tap-in from 3 yards, I hoofed it over the crossbar.
It was something I probably couldn't have done even on intending to, but it just happened. I laughed it off as any striker would do to a one-off miss. Few minutes later, same situation, same chance, same result. What seemed improbable happened again and again from slightly different chances. Now my teammates were laughing at me as well. My sky-high confidence, dropped back down to ground-level. Its alright, I said to myself, and continued playing.
Moments later I was presented an opportunity to take on the goalie in a one-on-one situation. I was deciding whether to humiliate the keeper with a chip or tease him with a fake shot. I decided that it's best to score this in the 'standard' manner to regain some confidence. I shot, or atleast I tried to, and felt my head hitting the ground, THUD, and I had slipped. How I managed to slip on dry grass befuddled me. But what I know is that I became the laughing stock of my opponents, and my teammates, sensing my plunging confidence, consoled me and we played on.
Or better said, they played and I stood, doing my best Mertesacker impression. I couldn't make those defence splitting runs I so loved doing, I couldn't [fun]ing move my feet. I felt like I had weights and parachutes tied all over me. But this wasn't the worse. My teammates set up open goals for me, and..... I missed. I heard the opponent goalie saying "Next time he attacks I'm gonna doze off as he can't score" , "A rock can guide the ball into the goal better than he could". It broke me. Next time my team attacked, I either ran back or towards the corner, making myself unavailable for a pass. When I got one, despite my best efforts, I miskicked, over/underweighted it or slipped.
I wanted to die that very moment. I stopped playing. I went over to the touchline and collapsed into a heap, a heap of shit I was. I ditched my team to play with ten men as I was busy feeling down and out.
This gave me time to realise that what caused me to go this deep in misery was akin to just another day of misfortune Torres endures. And he faces worse criticism than any semi-pro like me ever could. Fans, players, ex-players, commentators, anyone having heard his name berate him. Some, like me, abuse him badly. What we fail to realise is that he is a human as well. Even he felt bad. And trust me, criticism when you're down doesn't spur you on, it further entrenches you.
I now look at Torres and appreciate the fact that he manages to atleast do his level best for the team. A mentally solid, headstrong person like me quit in one day. Torres carries on even after all these years. I agree he cannot do many things that he once could or even try to, for that matter, but what is often overlooked is that he takes it in his face and keeps going. Sure, a huge paycheque helps, but money doesn't soothe hurt feelings. It takes a paramount level of courage to keep going after what he has endured.
I request people not to stop criticizing him, but try to empathize with him and realise that not many would find the courage to be standing after such a sorry day at the office. Atleast I couldn't. I still haven't recovered from yesterday's traumatic performance and am fearing that Friday evening would come too soon for me for the quarter-final and semi-final. Most probably I'll opt out, all the more increasing my respect for Torres.
Fernando, I'm sorry I was mean to you in the past. I still might never love you or be your fan, but I shall always respect you for finding the courage to keep going after all these travails.