Guess who the most hated man in Egypt is right now?
Clue: It is one of their politicians.
It’s not even Donald Trump.
In fact, it’s got nothing to do with politics.
The man that is fanning the flames at the moment is footballer Sergio Ramos.
Ramos plays for the Spanish team Real Madrid as a centre-back. That is to say, he is one of two players in front of the goalkeeper, to stop opposing players from getting their strikes in.
Ramos has made a reputation for himself over the years as a hardman, using physical play to intimidate or put off opposing strikers from coming into his zone. This means that instead of shooting directly from the front of the goal, where the width gives a larger target, opposing players have to go from the side, where the angle is narrower. Ramos’ reputation as a hardman has meant he has been sent off many times in his career.
And as he has aged, and his physical skills have declined, Ramos has resorted more to guile and trickery, to get players sent off or carded, to influence the game. He writhes around at the slightest contact as if he has been hit by a train, and he is always playing mind games with the opposition.
So why is Ramos the most hated man in Egypt right now? Last night’s Champions League football final saw Real Madrid take on Liverpool. And in the game Ramos practically arm-barred talismanic Mo Salah into the ground, slamming his shoulder into it and dislocating it.
You can see that Ramos deliberately traps the arm before using his left leg to deliberately induce a fall.
The old wily fox realised that the only way to have an edge was to take out the opposing team’s most influential player.
Salah is out for the World Cup. Which is why many Egyptians will be fuming at was what not a deliberate attempt to play the ball at all. With Salah out, Egypt doubts.
The sad message is what it sends to kids and fans. Real Madrid is one of the most popular teams in the world, and Ramos is one of the more well-known players in it.
But subscribing and following a team means justifying such acts and condoning them. It breeds a “win at all costs” mentality that includes negative competition.
Drive is a good thing to have. The Baroque music composer J S Bach once walked two hundred miles to watch a concert by Dietrich Buxtehude. And Bartholomeo Cristofori went through many revisions before he produced the working version of the piano. But when the drive to win is tempered by ill practice, it sets up the wrong mindset, which, exacerbated over time, compounds a disconnect between perception and reality, which is where mental deterioration begins.
The problem is also because supporting bad practice demands we re-frame evidence. Is Sergio Ramos a dirty player? If you are an Egyptian, or a neutral, you might say “Yes”. If you are a Real Madrid fan, you would say “No”, despite his reputation over the years (look how the Real Madrid and Barcelona matches always end up with Madrid trying to roughhouse Leo Messi). But in saying “No”, you are forced to accept and even justify an incorrect act.
Remember how in the World Wars people claimed innocence for acts of atrocities because they said they were only following orders? The whole evidence of evil actions was reframed by the act of purporting to follow the company line – in this case the national line.
And in not admitting to wrong actions, but trying to justify them in order to avoid the humbling admissions, we only create distortions of truth.
The pursuit of success to obtain triumphs at all costs leaves much to be desired. It demands we be ruthless. And the fact that we could even consider ruthless to have some positive tinge to it goes to show how distorted our senses are.
Mental health time bomb.