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16.5.2005
Life and death

Crystal Palace - Southampton 2-2
Charlton - Crystal Palace 2-2

What can I say? Nothing really. There is no word for this. At least nothing that can be printed.

Time for heroics, a game of life and death, a football war, were the most common things said about the last day. Unfortunately, we couldnít live up to these phrases, and went down in the final moment. Among many others I have used all these words. Not just because we got relegated yesterday, but in any case I would have apologised for it now. I think it is wrong, inappropriate and disrespectful. Not just to the losing team and its people but also for those who have experienced the real meaning of these words.

I realised this last Sunday watching my Grandfather at Grandmothers funeral. Sure I cry and feel pain about football results, itís my life and this was one of the darkest days of it. However the view of an old man grieving next to his wives coffin what should have been their wedding day is real pain, matter of life and death and heroism. I felt then embarrassed being worried about a tight hamstring. Like I feel now for being so miserable about football that I broke some furniture at home.

I saw many times a picture in my head that I was going to score winning goal to keep us up in the Premiership. In that picture I was the hero. It didnít happen. And even my dream, would that have made me any better? Had my Grandfather considered that heroism? Answer lies in the way he lived his life.

Football doesnít belong to a same sentence with heroism for a young married man going to a war against an enemy of ten times stronger. My Grandfather saw his friends been killed but still miraculously won independence to my country. He came back to his wife into a destroyed land and built a happy home. After thin years he built another one. He would have built as many it would have taken.

Only time I have ever heard him complain was when doctor finally banned him from riding a bicycle. The unjust decision was made four years ago when he was 94 years of age. Age didnít matter, he always thanked that he could see his wife one more day. When she past away there was no next day. Nothing could change that.

I can never forget how brave and honourable he was at the funeral. He was deeply hurt, but still carried it through with dignity. It was heartbreaking but taught me a lesson. Before that I had thought there could be nothing worse than relegation. Sure my daily worries and life is depended on it. However it is nothing in the bigger scale, nothing that canít be fixed, things have to be put into a perspective.

Iíd have done anything us to stay up. It is painful and Iíve been crying a lot since yesterday. I put everything into it and still it wasnít enough. This has a massive impact on my future. Still it is not a permanent fall. It is not a matter of life and death. It is just a bad outcome. Our team can still look at the mirror because we gave it our best go. We now have to carry adversity honourably. Itís not what happens, more meaningful how you lived it. Thatís my Grandfather written all over it.

You canít choose all the outcomes in life. My Grandfather had great years together with Grandmother. His sorrow is deep. I had a chance to experience the Premiership. Palace and me are still not far from it. Everyone will experience adversity. And meet grief and sorrow. Those are just the laws of life and you canít change them. You can look back, though, and see if you given it your best go. That is the choice you can make everyday. To make your best effort for your cause. Be the husband you can be. Or be the honourable person playing football. For me there has never been a footballer even half a man of my Grandfather. His story is heroic. I apologise even writing about him next to a football game. Palace will always bounce back. And God will bless my Grandfather.


Aki


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