“To my Chelsea friends and family. You now know that I will be joining Real Madrid. It’s no secret that it was my dream to play for them since I was a young boy just scoring my first goal… Now, the clubs have reached an agreement, I hope you understand I had to pursue my next chapter, just as each and every one of you should when you have the chance to pursue your dreams”
— Eden Hazard
After seven years, 352 games and 110 goals for Chelsea, Eden Michael Hazard, one of the finest footballers of his generation, bid farewell to a club that made him a star and shot him into the global limelight. Warm tears almost made their way down my cheeks as I read his heart-melting farewell message. You would be wrong if you think I’m a Chelsea fan. Well, I hope you take it as normal football banter if I tell you Chelsea is a team I loathe thanks to the irking noise of their fans, many of whom would not only have painted the sky blue but the soil, hills and every other creation, were they powerful enough to do that.
The unmatched trio of Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez in 2008 had successfully arrested my initial interest in football and I found myself nursing deep affection for Manchester United, a team that housed three destructive fronts who made defenders suffer and got many nets pregnant. What triggered my emotions for Hazard was what would trigger those of many other football lovers — sheer emotional football moments. Seeing a full-fledged player like Hazard, who occupied a kingship status among his peers, leave his comfort zone, typically, would call for emotion.
Fit. Flexible. Technical. Tactical. Hazard did not only make football a pleasure for watching fans, he was also a toast of his fellow players. “Hazard has a lot of quality. He is a different football player who can unbalance [defences]…” said Lionel Messi; Cristiano Ronaldo also lauded Hazard when he listed him among 10 outstanding players. So exceptional Hazard was, that his former teammate, Nemanja Matic said, “Whenever I don’t know what to do with the ball I just give it to Eden! He usually finds a way to create an opportunity.” But then, what made Hazard, a lion in the games, become a powerless dog that could no longer go for a successful kill?
Following his (£86/$120m) massive transfer from Chelsea in 2019, Eden has only contributed four goals and seven assists to the Blancos cause and has been graduating from one injury to the other. I recall a funny moment, when a Nigerian football enthusiast, like many other emotional Nigerians, made an emotional stance that Hazard could be having a series of injuries because “the player who benches him at Real Madrid, Vinicius Jnr, is a Brazilian, and you know Brazilians deal a lot in voodoo.” Well, his stance was wrong, but his assertion about Brazil and voodoo could be right. According to the New York Times (Voodoo Rites in Brazil, Feb. 15, 1976, & TRAVEL ADVISORY: CORRESPONDENT’S REPORT; Bahia Makes Room for A Candomble Pantheon, June 14, 1998), Brazil had developed many cult practices and diasporic spiritual beliefs that had spread throughout the country, like the Candomblé that came on board via the syncretism of the West Africans, who were at a point, slave captives in Brazil. That they take advantage of the venerated “orixas” for occultic attacks. However, this would not jettison the fact that Nigerians maintain a notable share in emotional discussions and are quick to attach spiritual sentiments to human difficulties.
While Hazard should have rather made a tap from the success principles of footballers like Messi and Ronaldo, who he looked up to, Eden wrecked his own career with careless consumption of pizza, burgers, buns and other junk which are liable to cause injury or affect a footballer’s fitness. On his own choice of foods, listen to what he said while recovering from a calf injury that he suffered in late-February 2021: “The sauce on burger was my favourite thing. I’m trying not to eat a lot. I’m trying not to go into the pantry to eat a lot of buns, but it’s not easy.” His former Chelsea teammate and goalkeeper, Marcin Bulka, also revealed Hazard’s penchant for some greasy junk food: “He loves hamburgers and pizza. I saw him all the time in pizzerias,” he said, as per Goal. “He doesn’t care about anything other than football and having a good time. In Chelsea, this was not a problem, but at Real, especially with the recent injury, he probably went a bit overboard with the weight.”
Away from Hazard’s junks, he has also been described as the “most lazy player I’ve ever played with ‘’ by his former Chelsea teammate, John Obi Mikel. Another former teammate, Felipe Luis, said of Hazard, “Eden, along with Neymar, are the best players I have ever played alongside – up there with [Lionel] Messi. But He didn’t train well. Five minutes before the game he would be playing Mario Kart in the dressing room. He would warm up without tying his bootlaces up.” His former coach, José Mourinho, also lamented his laziness, saying, “The truth is what you see from him, he is an amazing player with awful training. When he gets onto the pitch you don’t see the reflection of a week of work, you just see a reflection of his talent.”
Junk foods and laziness had wrecked Hazard’s fitness and career; he got to Madrid five extra kilos overweight. Right to say he brought himself fame but ruined his game with careless enjoyment and laziness. He watched his own talent get clipped, shorter than he had wished. Like Hazard, like Neymar, the duo of who were kings in their games and supposed successors of the two best players in football history – Ronaldo and Messi – but ended up watching their talent recede. Like Hazard, like Neymar, like Nigerian youths. Many of the latter have an unlimited stream of talents bu-t watch it evaporate like vapour with their careless enjoyment and laziness. They spared no listening ears to John C Maxwell’s message that “Talent Is Never Enough.” Everlasting professionalism is never gifted on a silver platter; it requires relentless work, determination, sacrifice and many other principles.
Many talented Nigerians would rather blame the for their shining penury though they were the ones that threw hard work and success principles out of the window. Success without patience, results without consistent hard work have overwhelmed their thoughts. The others would rather take all sorts of hard substances, unhealthy junk and everything that could mar their health, sanity and profession, all in the name of enjoyment. They forget that there could be negative effects to all they consume. This makes it expedient to remind Nigerian youths that the decisions they make today will either make or mar their future and career. Laziness and careless enjoyment spoil long time dreams.
Finally, I hope Nigerians would rather tap success inspiration from Ronaldo and Messi, who maintained their fitness and professionalism at the riddance of laziness and careless enjoyment. Long-Lasting success requires hard work, sacrifice, principles and not “anyhowness.”
Hashim Amao writes from Ibadan, Oyo State