Three Crazy Passionate Players in Football

November 20, 2022

The world is breathing football. All eyes are directed towards Qatar. 20 November through 18 December is festival time. Football is a fast game so are the football fans. The players are passionate so are the fans. The fans bet who would win and anxiously wait. Some are crazy in their passion for football. Some are more passionate about leading players. Fans do crazy things to celebrate together. Both the players and fans are crazy in their passion. Indian fans erected cut-outs in river and picture in a court.

Cut-outs in the river

Messi in Basketball Court

While consultations in workshops on different types of leaders as well as their qualities and functions were conducted, conclusion was drawn to consider five types among them. Servant leaders, tempered radicals, fifth level leaders, crazy passionate leaders and outlier leaders were listed. The interesting part of the discussions had mostly been on the fourth type, Crazy Passionate Leaders. The more interesting part was when the names of footballers Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar were mentioned as crazy passionate leaders while being great players of the game.

Several leaders from various walks of life have been confronted with the question, why they should have been seen crazy in their behaviour and passionate about what they had done crazily, without an answer being provided. These crazy leaders are committed to their vision and mission. However, in the processes of the pursuit of the vision and mission, they do not easily come in for the regulations of others or even the society. For most of the people who witnessed them, such leaders exhibit signs of madness because these leaders defy normal logic and rationality in their behaviour. In fact, they have their own logical and rational arguments behind every action of theirs which may not satisfy the common humans. Interestingly, many of the achievements that these crazy passionate leaders have attained could not have been done by the so-called sane people. There are specific influence processes that these crazy passionate leaders adopt though they may not be recognizable at the first sight in their exhibitions.

There are crazy passionate leaders in almost all fields. It is worthwhile to examine three football players as crazy passionate leaders. It may not be necessary to stress on their passion for football as a game. However, their craziness needs to be seen at close quarters as crazy passionate leaders in their lives. The three of them are Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese, Lionel Messi, the Argentinian and Neymar, the Brazilian.

Ronaldo owed his life to an unknown doctor who refused to help an abortion when Maria Dolorous, his mother was pregnant with him. She even overdrank with the hope of a natural abortion. All because her husband was alcoholic; and the associated poverty could not have allowed a child to be brought up. However, Ronaldo was born and the mother patronised the growing son’s interest in playing football. Apart from being the mother of a famous player, Maria Dolorous also became a celebrity by carving her own niche in the Portuguese society. Her decision to allow her son to give up schooling to pursue the game of football at the age of fourteen was responsible for the building of the great footballer, Christino Ronaldo. As a personality, he is known for his leadership which is very different from many other players. His personal life itself is a story of crazy living seasoned with peculiar passion.

Martunis Sarbini was a seven year old Indonesian boy who escaped by chance from a 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. He was supposed to have held on to a floating) sofa in the sea and was discovered on a beach a week later. He lost his mother and sister. However, when rescuers saved him, they noticed that he was wearing a Portuguese jersey. His photograph with the jersey was published in many newspapers in Portugal. Ronaldo noticed it and went to Indonesia to meet the young boy. He adopted him and spent all the money that was needed for his education.

Martunis Sarbini and Ronaldo

As he grew up, Martunis Sarbini became a member of the Portuguese Sporting Club Academy and played for the junior team. During those days, someone identified the crazy behaviour of Ronaldo in going all the way to Indonesia to patronise the boy. Someone even said that he was crazy about a Portuguese jersey that Martunis was wearing as seen in the newspapers when he was saved from the shore after the tsunami. Though Ronaldo has four children, he has not yet declared the name of the mother of his first child. One can easily notice the crazy passionate leadership of Ronaldo not only as a football professional but also in his personal life.

The two hands of Lionel Messi with raised fingers go up into the air whenever he scores a goal. Times out of number, his fans would identify it as his sending the goals up into the heavens where his grandmother would receive them. In his younger years, he was taken from one football field to another by Celia Maria Cuccittini, his grandmother. She died in 1998 much before Messi became a star of football. Every time he scores a goal, he remembers his grandmother who used to take him for the game alongside other children. It was she who was responsible for persuading the family to buy his first pair of football boots. Messi’s great disappointment was that she did not live long enough to see his success as a great footballer.

Sometime in 2017, Messi showed his unusual ways of behaviour testifying his character of craziness as part of his leadership. He was responsible for bringing Nujeen Mustafa, a Syrian refugee who was on wheelchair, affected with Cerebral Palsy to his Barcelona camp in Cologne, Germany. Nujeen travelled five thousand six hundred kilometers, and that too in a wheelchair, to reach Cologne from Syria which was in turmoil with internal strife.

Messi with Nujeen Mustafa

A Barcelona bus came to pick her from her Cologne house and took her to meet Messi who waited for her in their home ground in Nou Camp. She was presented with a Barcelona jersey with her name printed on it to the great satisfaction of Nujeen and Messi. Just as the young girl was crazy about football, Messi was crazy in honouring her interest in football after she had escaped from Syria and settled in Germany despite her ailment. It is not very difficult to identify the crazy passionate leadership in Messi in the efforts that he put in to recognise Nujeen.

Neymar, the Brazilian, started his career into big leagues at the age of 17. After being second to Pele in Brazil in scoring goals, he moved over to Spain and joined Barcelona. March 11 is an important day in Neymar’s life. Wherever he is, he would manage to reach his sister as it happened to be her birthday. He loves her so much that he has tattooed her face on his hand. His sister Rafaella had also done the same, except that it is Neymar’s eyes that she had tattooed on her hand. However busy he is in his game, Neymar somehow finds time to be with his sister on her birthday. Chance was on his side in 2015 and 2016 because he was under suspension from the game, and in 2017, he was wounded and was out of the game. In fact, he was happy about the two disadvantages because he could celebrate his sister’s birthday with her. In 2018, again, Neymar was wounded and could attend his sister’s birthday. His affection for his sister was far above his interest in football which in itself was very deep and some of his friends considered him crazy in both.

In 2017, newspapers published a picture of Neymar with Ana Clara as Neymar helped the young girl’s dream really happen. Ana was afflicted with the rare sickness of Hutchinson Gilford Progeria syndrome in which children grow old too suddenly.

Neymar and Ana Clara

Eight year old Ana who looked like an old woman, shared a video socially on her interest in meeting Neymar. Ana was excited when Neymar visited her keeping all his other engagements away. She couldn’t control her joy when Neymar was holding her in his hands and when he presented her a jersey with her picture and name printed on it. Several pictures of Ana and Neymar were published in different newspapers and magazines across the world. They proclaimed to the world the crazy passionate leadership of Neymar, the great footballer.

It will be interesting to understand the thoughts of the mid twentieth century American, Jack Kerouac who himself was a crazy passionate writer and conclude by referring to his words from his book ‘On The Road’. He said that the only people for him were the mad ones, the ones who were mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a common place thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars, and in the middle, one saw the blue center-light pop, and everybody went ahh……… Elsewhere Kerouac said that he believed that great things were not achieved for those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion. He also thought that his failure was not the passion he had, but in his lack of control of them. Passion and craziness at their height, is the best to describe crazy passionate leadership as visible in great footballers like Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar.




By Prof Sunney Tharappan
Prof Sunney Tharappan, is director of College for Leadership and HRD, Mangaluru. He trains and writes and lives in Mangaluru.
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