Dear Robin van Persie,
On July 4th 1776, the Continental Congress of the United States of America took pen to paper and wrote an open letter to King George. This letter was critical of the King’s managerial skills, his human right’s record, his anti-immigration policy, and most famously his fiscal policy. It is, perhaps, the most famous open letter in the history of the human race and contains a sentence which became the rallying cry of the oppressed in every nation of the world:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Meanwhile, on July 4th 2012, you wrote an open letter “to the fans” which, to be fair, was less a rallying cry of the oppressed and more a seamy advertisement for services posted in a phone booth.
First, I am one of those fans to which this letter was addressed so thank you for taking time to think about me and my feelings in this matter. I’ve been a fan of yours since 2006 when you were subbed on for Alex Hleb in Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Charlton at Highbury. I remember that 2006 was a tough year for you, because you kept picking up little injuries which kept you out of the starting lineup and, in fact, that Charlton match was your re-introduction to the squad after a tough month of February. But we could all see the talent that was budding and we all hoped that Arsene and Arsenal could get the best out of you with patient tutoring from them and with hard work on your part.
I stuck with you for the next 6 years, despite the fact that constant injuries meant that you were often not available to help the team win trophies. 2007-2008 Arsenal finished just 4 points behind eventual winners Man U and that season represented Arsenal’s best chance at winning the Premier League since 2005/2006. That was the season that injury limited you to just 15 League games for Arsenal and a season where you played a full 90 minutes just twice in the League. If there was ever a year that Arsenal could have used your magical goal scoring touch, that was it. Yet still many of us stuck by you through those dark days and such as the ones between September of 2010 and January 2011 when chronic injuries meant that you played more games for the Dutch national team than you did for us Arsenal fans.
And I was there behind the goal in Liverpool to see the fruition of all those years of hard work and loyalty that Arsene Wenger and Arsenal paid to you throughout your injury riddled career. When you scored that amazing volley off that perfect chip from Alex Song, a moment of pure jubilation swept through the stands. That is a memory I will carry with me all my life and one for which I am grateful.
But as fan, and someone who has supported you throughout your career, I have to say that your letter sounds a lot like you feel you are better than Arsenal and that means you feel like you are better than us, the fans. Talent wise there is no doubt that you are better than me with the ball. I can’t do what you do with a football. But without us fans paying for your rehab, for the hours of training, for the facility that you play in, and for the salary which ensures that you will never have a bill collector ringing you up in the middle of the night, you wouldn’t be able to do what you do with a ball either. In fact, what would you do without football and by extension, without us?
Of course, this fits a pattern in your letter — one in which you say one thing and do something different. You say that you met with the boss and Mr. Gazidis to talk about their strategy for acheiving your laudable goal of “bringing the club back to its glory days” and that you disagreed with them over their strategy which is the reason why you are quitting. I’m no great strategist but perhaps you could explain how it is you plan to acheive the goal of bringing the club back to its glory days by turning your back on that same club?
You also say that you love us, that you are grateful for all that we have given you, and that you realize that we made you into the man that you are today, but that you have to leave us because, well, you know, you’re just better than we are. “Love?” Methinks you’re using the wrong word there, my friend. One of the lessons that I have learned as a man is that no matter how hard the relationship is, no matter how vociferous the disagreements, you don’t simply walk away from the people you truly love. It’s easy to love someone when the sun is shining but a real man is there for you through the dead of winter. If you think about it, kind of like the way that Arsene Wenger treated you. Or like the way that we all treated you this year after 7 long years of mediocrity.
It’s ok though, we get it, you don’t really love us: you love money, or some hollow notion of glory. I wouldn’t want to keep you around now that you’ve made your feelings clear because that would be me just holding on to a fantasy. I do feel bad that you have debased yourself so publicly and that you’ve sullied the memories I have of your time at Arsenal, but you’re the one who has to live with that. Your family has to live with that.
Just one last thing, if you do win a trophy somewhere else, like Chelsea or Man City or whomever offers you the most lucrative contract, remember what Alex Hleb said about the Champions League medal that he won while with Barcelona.
When you mostly sit on the bench, winning titles brings very little joy, while getting to the last eight of the Champions League with Arsenal was unforgettable.
I’ve no doubt you’ll score a few goals with your new club, but I doubt that any of them will be as unforgettable as that winner in Liverpool.