Perhaps it is a result of the over commercialization of football, but it’s a fact that only certain kinds of players get the limelight.
Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar, Mbappe, and Halaand these days. They are united in the sense that they are all essentially attacking, goal-scoring players. And while it cannot be denied they make the game entertaining to watch, some of the basic tenets which make football such a great team sport (or the ultimate team sport as some fans would say) are cast aside because of this ‘unhealthy’ fixation.
It has led to a generation of players growing up who only feel validated if they have scored; and this is to be taken in ‘on the pitch terms’ strictly. Funny as this is, it is a phenomenon seen frequently across many sporting grounds across the country, as young ones engage with the beautiful game.
And on the subject of beautiful, as a wise man once said, “beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.”
For the many coaches he would have played under, there would never have been a more beautiful sight than N’Golo Kante scurrying around the pitch, trying to retrieve the ball like it was a long-lost sibling.
Kante epitomizes energy in a manner few players have in the history of the game. He is omnipresent, putting in the double shift at all times. The amount of ground he covers in a game should make him a natural fit for any cellphone service providing brand.
Teams are significantly better off with him.
Think how Leicester astonishingly won the Premiership in 2016.
Reflect on how France climbed to the summit of world football at Mundial 2018 in Russia.
Add the memory of Saturday night to that.
The question has to be asked: would any of those triumphs have been possible without the prowess and talents of N’Golo Kante?
Because Football is not just about those who score the goals. It is also about those who break up opposition plays, impose themselves on the field, cover spaces in critical areas and selflessly let others shine.
Kante sets an example that young aspirants would do well to emulate. And this extends to matters beyond the football pitch as well.
He works tirelessly for others, and puts his body on the line for the collective cause. He is happy to see his team mates get the glory. He is content not bothering about the spotlight.
Such people are rare, across all walks of life.
In an era, where the term ‘workhorse’ tends to be looked down upon, and people try to take the elevator route to success, Kante harkens back to an old-fashioned ritual of grinding it out to achieve success.
Come the Ballon D’or ceremonies this year, he should certainly be up there among the contenders, at least this time around. This will be even more the case, if France goes deep in the European Championships beginning shortly.
But even if by some strange quirk of fate he does not get nominated Kante will shrug off another opportunity to step into the high-profile circle, and continue at his work of plugging on and on across the pitch.
Because when it comes to the football field, he is the sport’s equivalent of the Energizer Bunny.
(Vinay Kanchan is the author of ‘Sportivity’, ‘Lessons from the Playground’ & ‘The Madness Starts at 9’. He is the patron saint of Juhu Beach United, a footballing movement which celebrates the ‘unfit, out-of-breath working person of today’.)