Wall-to-wall TV coverage of the delayed Euro 2020 championships grinds on endlessly (says Helen!) And if the football is bad, the news conferences which follow are often even more tedious!(says Mike!) But two of the post-match news conferences and their outcomes fascinated us both.
First Portuguese star, Cristiano Ronaldo, removed two bottles of Coca Cola strategically placed before him and recommended instead ‘agua, agua’. It took him 15 seconds! Then French star, Paul Pogba silently took a bottle of Heineken beer and placed it below the press-conference table. It took him 5 seconds! As a practising teetotal Muslim, Pogba was keen to dissociate himself from even the non-alcoholic beer which he removed!
Two of the tournament’s major sponsors, Coca Cola and Heineken weren’t best pleased. ‘All publicity is good publicity’? Maybe not in this case. What fascinated us was that the hero status of these two men rose as quickly as Coca Cola’s share price was falling - $4 billion off the market price! Muslims and some others will admire Pogba for being the same off and on the pitch, for not hiding his religious loyalties, and for his gesture against alcohol consumption. Ronaldo will find a following among those who champion a low-sugar diet and a healthy lifestyle. The two men's sporting gifts have given them a platform to make small gestures with enormous and immediate impacts. Though both footballers are big brands in themselves, it is always good to see global giants failing to get their own way.
Footballers have at their disposal a simple way of defining themselves as successful not available most of us. But the two footballers’ gestures reminded us of a conversation about success that we had recently with a younger friend of ours who said to us: ‘I’m X years old and what have I got to show for it? I can do a lot of things reasonably well but nothing with excellence.’ Not for her the convenient label, the high profile. Just the daily slog of growing herself as a professional, building a marriage, supporting friends and family and, with her partner, feeding and clothing her children, answering their questions, community building, , and campaigning for underdogs of various kinds.
For our friend, for us and for most people, life is complicated, routine and mostly hidden. If we do sometimes get the ‘ball in the back of the net’ in our own small way, very few people will notice. There will be no grand news-making gestures. No press conferences to explain ourselves.
Becoming a ‘hero’ is a lifelong project.
BREAKING NEWS - Both players may be fined for breach of contract. Being a hero can be a mixed blessing!