When Arsenal sacked Unai Emery six days ago, there was an outpouring of relief and, in many corners, celebration across the Gunner-sphere. It was understandable — the club was struggling and the players were not “getting” whatever it was Emery was trying to communicate to them.
I think the move was the best thing for Arsenal Football Club. At the same time, the rejoicing and parting-shot-taking made me feel a bit icky. A caveat before I go further: I understand Unai Emery made and will make plenty of money in his career. He’s going to land on his feet, maybe a bit bruised, but more or less none the worse for wear. This is not a call for support for him during a difficult time, although I’m sure this isn’t a moment he will recall as a high point in his football life.
Instead, it’s a reminder that footballers, managers, and even upper management at football clubs are human beings. The vast majority of them are trying their hardest to succeed in their jobs. Even though they are different from you and me in a multitude of ways, they still have feelings and deserve our respect, fair treatment, and kindness until they do something non-sports related to violate that. Let’s not forget that in this case, if you boil it down, a man was fired from his job.
It can be tough to remember the humanity of the other guy where sports are concerned. Because we are so passionate, we can lose ourselves and our decency in our fanaticism. I think that our passion-blindness probably exacerbated to the Granit Xhaka situation. I’d guess that general decency is at least part of what the players are getting at with all the recent calls for togetherness that they’ve made on social media.
I wanted to wrap this up with some grand statement about humanity and human nature, but nothing profound came to me. I just think that the world would be a better place if we all were a little bit more considerate of each other. Let’s try to make it one.