The Difference between a man and a boy – A tale from France

Laurent Blanc has been slapped in the face by football more than once in his life.

When France won the World Cup in 1998, the man affectionately known as Larry White during his later playing days in England formed one half of an impressive centre-half partnership for the French alongside Marcel Desailly.

But he was missing from the final itself, having played an integral part in getting his team there during the tournament.

In the semi-final against Croatia, during the build-up to a French offensive free-kick, Blanc was in the opposing penalty area waiting for the delivery when he had a sudden realisation. He had invited his old Aunt Marie up to Paris to be his special guest of honour for the game.

She had travelled all the way from the south of France especially to watch her little nephew Larry play in the semi-final; which in itself was a miracle as she hated the capital with all its rude Parisians rushing around and cursing each other all the time.

So to sweeten the deal and make her day a little more special, Blanc had promised to wave to her during the game.

And he really had to deliver…Aunt Marie had told him that if he didn’t, she would give him a good clip around the back of the head. Sweet irony….

 

The difference between a man and a boy

 

Laurent Blanc has a brush with a rock god

With all this suddenly going through his mind and with the free-kick about to be delivered he turned around to find her in the crowd, arm outstretched in a pre-emptive wave. And just at that exact moment, opposing Croatian centre-half and part-time rock god Slaven Bilic wandered across the path of that arm and took a vicious looking (but totally accidental) thumb to the eye.

He went down apparently crying in a heap. The ref smelled foul play, whipping out the red card for poor Larry who was sent for an early bath before facing the wrath of Aunt Marie, who never did get that wave. Here’s footage of the incident along with some bland responses and reaction

Anyway, France went on to win that game and the World Cup itself a few days later. But Blanc learned a valuable lesson that day – the fates of the football world are cruel and fickle.

Fast forward to the present day where he recently got a reminder of the fact.

 

When your social media footprint comes back to haunt you

Now quite a successful manager with French giants Paris St Germain and gearing up for a big European Cup game against Chelsea, his team’s preparations went down the pan when footage from an internet Q&A emerged showing one of his players – Ivory Coast international Serge Aurier – apparently saying some pretty nasty stuff about his team-mates including Angel Di Maria and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

And even Blanc himself wasn’t immune from the abuse, with Aurier appearing to suggest that his manager preferred the company of men.

You can read all about the incident here

 

Larry takes it very badly – but like a man

Now these nasty little incidents happen from time to time – but just as important as what life throws at us is how we react. And how did Larry White react?

Very badly,” he said in a press conference. “Very badly because we can think whatever we think, this is a democracy and we are free to think, and thankfully we can have our own opinions in our country and that’s good.

“But I think that guy, that boy… really two years ago I committed myself to making him come to Paris and seeing what I saw yesterday that’s all the thanks I got and I think that’s really pitiful.”

Blanc generally handled himself pretty well in that press conference and spoke with eloquence and as a man of substance. But here he made the mistake of thinking that he is owed something by the world (personified in this case by Aurier).

It’s a dog-eat-dog world and Aurier is only important to Blanc and the team as long as he is performing and contributing positively. And that’s what they make him a multi-millionaire for.

“It is penalising for him but what I do not accept either is that it is also bad for the club – it is penalising the club.”

Sure, Aurier has now been suspended by the club and he’ll probably get a two-week fine. Worst-case scenario – possibly sacked. Who knows. Either way, he’ll be fine in the long-term.

If he gets sacked, he’ll be public enemy #1 for a while but once the dust settles, some other club will eventually pick him up and sign him to a multi-year contract and furnish his bank account with a few more million. So is it really penalising for him? Short term, slightly. Long term…probably not that much.

 

Never take sides against the family

Blanc’s grip here is that HE fought to get this player signed for the club. The club is his sporting family. The players are his adopted sons. Here is one he personally wanted to adopt who has now betrayed his father’s confidence by apparently talking trash about him on social media.

Why he said what he said or what his motivation was, I have no idea. But Blanc was still angry as he continued his press conference. And he hit on an important point:

“The player is a big boy, he can do what he wants and he will handle the consequences. There are many, many people in that generation that spend their time feeling sorry and excusing themselves but I think before excusing you need to think about what you do.”

When I first read this, I was impressed. It appears Blanc is familiar with The Iron Qualities and must be one of the dozens who regularly visit the site. Bienvenue Laurent.

His point here is that a man – and even ‘a big boy’ – should take responsibility for his actions and ownership of the consequences of those actions.

It’s the easiest thing to do something wrong and then apologise for it. The thing is…apologies are weak and should be avoided as much as possible. Aurier apparently thought it was a good idea to publicly insult his footballing brothers and father on social media and then had a change of heart when there was a backlash.

“He’s a boy that should be preparing today for a last-16 game of the Champions League. That would’ve been better instead of staying at home not knowing what to do.”

Well, one suggestion I can make to Aurier is that he checks out theironqualities.com where he can pick up a wealth of material on how to move from “boy” to man and avoid any of this unpleasantness in the future.

 

It’s strictly business – but let’s at least deal with things as men

Spending time thinking negatively about people and talking trash is really time wasted. But don’t get me wrong – the problem isn’t what he said. It’s that he’s saying this about his adopted family. If you want to talk trash about them, do it to their face or wait until another family adopts you.

It’s an overly romantic idea suggesting that a football club is one big surrogate family. Maybe once upon a time things were like that. But increasingly it’s become strictly business. Big business.

  • Do players care about team mates and see them as brothers?
  • Do managers see their players as sons?
  • Is there a tribal bond between club, players and supporters?

The answer to all those questions is increasingly ‘no’. But that’s a thought for another day.

For now, it’s enough to know that Larry White handled this situation like a man and if you ever feel the urge to talk trash about those close to you – do it to their face instead of plastering it all over social media.

I’ll leave the last word on this to Mr White himself:

“If he’s got a problem with me, I won’t use you journalists to handle the problem. That’s for sure.”

That’s how Aunt Marie brought him up

 

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