Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sue the player – not the Federation

Bayern Munich is seeking reparations from the Dutch medical team. Arjen Robben, playing injured throughout the World Cup, re-aggravated a left hamstring injury leaving him sidelined for the first two months of Bayern's 2010/11 Bundesliga campaign. And apparently it’s the medical staff’s fault.

I should note this is not the first time the Dutch medical staff and the football association (KNVB) have come under fire. Back in November 2009, Robin Van Persie injured himself in a friendly against Italy sidelining him for 6 weeks with a serious ankle injury. Arsenal immediately filed a complaint seeking compensation from the KNVB. Aside from wanting them to cover his salary for the time missed, they were furious over alleged mismanagement of Van Persie’s treatment. Did Arsenal have justification? Sure they did.

Drawing parallels between the two however, other than the fact that both implicate the Dutch as plaintiffs, would be inaccurate and unwise. Club teams loathe international friendlies - especially meaningless ones. Van Persie's situation was one of these instances in that the Netherlands had already qualified for South Africa months before. Only three months into the Premiere League season, Van Persie was getting plenty of playing time and had plenty more yet. There was no reason for him to play against Italy. I have no problem calling him up, but don't play him. An entirely different scenario is what makes Bayern’s case groundless and moot.

This was no meaningless friendly. This was the greatest tournament on the planet that comes around every four years. It is a stage that kids, from the time they are born, dream of performing on. Oh, and Arjen Robben happened to be the most explosive player in the best form of his career. Robben knew he was hurt – hell, everyone did! He sat out the first two group stage matches and only came on in the 73rd minute of the third. No misdoings by the medical staff yet as far as I can tell. They hit a wall though – confronted by a hungry, passionate, anxious winger whose left foot had the ability to lead the Netherlands to glory. What were they going to do? Chain Robben to the bench? What was Bert Van Marwijk going to do? Bench his star player, whom he knows can take them to the Promised Land?! (Not to mention the fact the Oranje noticeably lacked creativity in the games he missed.)

A freight train couldn’t have prevented Robben from getting on that field and risking injury for the sake of his country. Bayern Munich would have you believe my idea to chain him to the bench was one they should have carried out… In all seriousness, though. Where do they get the nerve heaping injustice upon the Dutch Federation for something only Robben is guilty of?

Robben’s injury history is well documented. Quite fittingly, he is often referred to as the “man of glass.” He often wears spandex body suits during games, to ensure his muscles remain warm and loose. Bayern’s argument carries an assumption that Robben is a helpless baby deer, unaware of his surroundings and his own condition. Give me a break. Nobody knows Robben’s physical limitations more than he does, and he made the decision to push those limitations, which clearly risked and resulted in long-term injury.

So Bayern wants somebody to satisfy their urge for compensation? Why don’t they just ask Arjen himself?! He’s more culpable than anyone else. Of course, in the ideal world of football, players are never held accountable for mismanaging professional medical advice. If ever an exception should be made, it’s right now. Bayern should look no farther than their own locker room to find the man to pay them back.

Don’t you just wonder if Robben had beaten Casillas on that breakaway and won the World Cup for his country, would Bayern still be doing complaining…?

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