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The Neymar heist

The Neymar heist
Highlights

By all accounts, football remains a poor man’s game in the sense that like volleyball, hockey, kabaddi and kho-kho, to name a few, it hardly needs any infrastructure, bar players, a ground and anything two things for a goal-post. However, the evolution and growth of the beautiful game has been so mindboggling that today football is a money-spinner like no other.  

By all accounts, football remains a poor man’s game in the sense that like volleyball, hockey, kabaddi and kho-kho, to name a few, it hardly needs any infrastructure, bar players, a ground and anything two things for a goal-post. However, the evolution and growth of the beautiful game has been so mindboggling that today football is a money-spinner like no other.

In monetary terms, star footballers earn as much (if not more than) as those from elite disciplines like tennis, golf and basketball by way of earnings, minus the endorsements. Yes, one is talking of mega bucks. Football players, commanding astronomical fees, figure prominently in any Forbes top earning athletes’ list.

However, a new equation has been set in motion by the record-shattering transfer fee that Paris St Germain (PSG) has offered to Barcelona superstar Neymar Jr. The five-year deal with the French club is worth a whopping 222 million euros (200 million pounds), a figure that sounds extra-terrestrial but something that has a precedence. In break-up, it translates to 550,000 euros per week. Moolah comes in to football in unimaginable proportion.

The first major transfer fee offered was when West Brom Aston Villa roped in Willie Groves Scotland for a princely amount of 100 pounds way out in 1893. It is ironical that football is perhaps the only sport which enjoys unparalleled popularity in every nation, despite not being a national sport in most of them.

It is also a fact of life that footballers, by and large, belong to impoverished sections while golf and tennis is the preferred choice of elite classes. As a global sport, football has penetrated into remotest areas because the sport hardly needs any major investment. What has upped the stakes for the sport is that sponsors have come by the dozen and spectators have embraced it like nothing ever known.

The bigger the player, the higher the rewards! Yes, criminal elements have also a stake in the game but then that is understandable given the frenzied craze the sport commands. Nothing has diminished brand values of the players, though. Each season produced some exiting new prospects, to take forward the resplendent legacy of the likes of Pele, Maradona and Cryuff.

Of course, not all countries splurge money on football. In India, for instance, although hockey remains the national sport, money talks only in cricket. It is ditto with most Asian nations, except China, which has gradually emerged as a football major. India ought to learn a lesson from them because in spite of the money that is being pumped into football, there is a fine balancing act with an equal share being earmarked for table tennis, badminton and gymnastics besides tapping champion Olympians.

Meanwhile, professionals like Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and those from other sport should take cue from the magnanimous gesture that has been shown by Manchester United's Spanish international Juan Mata. In a magnanimous showing he has promised to give one per cent of his earnings (millions of $) to charity. It is doubtful if such calls can inspire positive responses from Indian professionals.

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