Hurrah, the season break is over and from tomorrow the football (soccer) season here in the UK kicks off. My name is Michael Clews, and this is my 1st column for TJR sports. I follow all areas of football in the UK and Europe, and I am actively involved in football on a personal level.
Many things take place over the summer months, BBQ's, Holidays and Days Out are just a few but still following football in these slow weeks can be tedious with repeated and monotonous stories being drawn out until there is no life left in them. Repeats all summer of the Wayne Rooney fiasco, will he leave? wont he leave? Is Ronaldo coming back to Manchester United or going to Chelsea to link up with Mourinho? Will Gareth Bale leave? etc etc
But one story has caught my eye. One unusual one that speaks in my opinion volumes about the state of the game in its present day form. Papiss Demba Cisse, a Newcastle United centre forward, scorer of extraordinary goals does what this summer?.. go on strike. Correct paid a fortune and goes on strike over a shirt sponsor. Why? Because of his religious beliefs.
Now I for one feel that if you firmly believe in something, no matter the cause and you stand up and use your actions or speak about it in the right way, I will applaud and respect that, I may not always agree, however this move smacked of pure hypocrisy. Newcastle United, biggest club in the North East (maybe disputed by some people on Wearside) signed Papiss Cisse on 21st January 2012 for 9 Million Pounds. He was an instant hit and his strike partner ship with Demba BA had "The Toon" challenging for champions league football until the final throws of an incredible season. His form dipped a little last year, but the Geordie's still loved him and were finally chuffed to have a striker that they could talk about in the ilk of their most famous son Alan Shearer.
This summer that turned sour. Newcastle announced they were changing shirt sponsor for the forth coming season, and the new sponsor was Wonga.com. Wonga are a payday loan company offering short term loans at high interest rates.They have sponsored many events across the country and even sponsor championship side Blackpool, but they are at present a successful and cash rich company regardless of people's feelings on their business model.
Papiss Cisse claimed that being a practising Muslim prevented him from wearing the shirt against his religious views. It is against his religion to lend money. Now my suspicions were raised as the previous sponsor was Virgin Money, A bank that lends money. Before was Northern Rock, a bank that not only lent money but became one of the biggest banking failures of the century for risky lending practises. Why was the previous shirt not against his beliefs. The reason was to hide behind his religion in order to leave the club.
The saga continued for weeks, Cisse missed preseason training in Portugal. He offered to wear an unbranded shirt, but that would have breached his playing contract of wearing the team colors and sponsorships before, during and upto 1 hour after matches and training. Eventually there was a twist in the tale, Cisse was spotted, Spotted in a casino gambling on roulette. The problem being that as a practising Muslim it is against his religion to gamble. As soon as this picture went viral, he refusal to wear the famous black and white was removed and he declared himself available for games. The hypocrisy was astounding and a u turn bigger the size of sailing the cape of good hope.
For me this empathizes what is wrong with the game. Cisse is now in my eyes nothing more than a mercenary who wants to leave, but he will not admit it. His formed dipped and Newcastle United finished in a poor place last season, but he should have openly asked to leave and requested a transfer. Instead he tried to hold Newcastle to ransom behind his beliefs and force them to sell him. Bringing religion into football in this way is unacceptable. The two elements of religion and sport should not mix in this way. Other Muslim players at Newcastle Chieck Tiote and Moussa Sissoko agreed to wear the shirt so why was Cisse different?
However, what makes this worse is the fickleness of the fans. I for one would want a player who did this to leave, but as I said Cisse was held in high regard by the faithful, and if he scored plenty this season, especially against Sunderland would he be forgiven? You bet he will. Having lived in the North East for 10 years previously, I know he passion and love "the toon" is held in the hearts of the locals, but should a mercenary like Cisse be forgiven? He should not be but I suspect he will.
As a Newcastle fan how do you feel? Do you think that Cisse will be welcomed back? or should he still be sold? Should the club have fined Cisse or banned him? So many questions and lots to discuss, hit me up on Twitter @01clewsy, add me on Facebook just search for Michael Clews or leave a comment. I would love to hear you views on loyalty and so called mercenaries in the English game.