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19.12.2004
Give me a break!

Iím in the visitorsí toilet at Old Trafford just before our game. For a moment it crosses my mind how many world best players have visited the same box. At least Iíve shared something with the very best. Already this season, not to mention at all time, all the legends, the stars, the heroes have played in Old Trafford, the list is endless. My name is not there. Old Trafford sanitaria might be like anywhere else Iíve been, but the stadium and its history is unique, it is truly the theatre of dreams. My dream is not just to play here, but to win. I know this is not the biggest game in its history but I approach it like it was and the belief is strong in me.

Two hours later I come off the pitch realising why playing Manchester United at Old Trafford is something else. It was a lesson. They taught us how it can be done. No excuses, probably the biggest crowd anywhere in sports this weekend witnessed they were just too good for us on a day. The ones shouting they are out of the title fight must be mad. After playing all the three candidates, Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea, it is hard to put money on which one is going to finish on top. It is between these three different kinds of impressive teams and approaches to the game. It is also still wide open in the other end of the table, where unfortunately weíve been stuck at the moment. Unlike United our Premiership trophy seems to be staying up this season. In both ends every point and small detail counts. United had more to count after the game.

This Premiership journey is nearly half travelled. All the competitions included it has been almost five months without a breather. Now it is Christmas time. For me, Christmas is a religious holiday that should be celebrated with peaceful manners together with a family. In English football language that means four games in eight days. No time for peace or family. For a footballer, Christmas and New Year equal twelve points. No-one could prefer a fat turkey and fire works to that. It is over ten percent of the season in one week so preparing and playing effectively is crucial. There will be no gifts given on the pitch, so you have to keep your eye on the ball not on the Christmas dinner. This short period can decide the season. I leave Old Trafford realising I need to upset lot of my friends and family to be optimal for the games. Professionalism is staying away from things you want to do to focus on the thing you want more. Sorry Santa.

United can expect a good point return from Santaís back. They are looking strong even though they had send two players on holiday. Normally holiday is a luxury footballers canít afford. These players though had worked non stop since summer. Surviving that requires bit more than a good night sleep and a weekly massage. Football profession is not just showing up day in day out. Itís putting your body and mind on the line each moment. It takes a lot to give a lot.

No human is a machine who can entertain with top physical performance every second day. When mind starts to push the brakes, the chances of physically breaking down is behind a door. Keeping that door closed and keeping yourself completely out of all the jingle bells are a tall order. Even though everyone is calling that order Iíve witnessed for many years how the fixtures are tearing many footballers and the game apart. Many games in a short period played often on dodgy pitches and weather are inviting injuries and bad quality. Every year the standard of games seem to drop for the Christmas period.

I understand the need of traditional Boxing Day and New Years Day games, it is part of the great English football culture which has made it the best league in the world. But why all the other games? Everyone would win if there wasnít such a Christmas rush and there was a short winter break, for example in January. Teams and players could reinvent and rebuilt themselves, which would increase the standard and intensity of the games. Fresh legs and ideas play fresh games. Fresh lungs and peace at home is a good deal for supporters. There is easily a chance for another midweek game in spring or finishing the season week later. You can label me a sole moaning foreign asylum seeker criticising the system but I know this is the general opinion in football.

Old Trafford wasnít my dream come true this time. Santa wonít bring me my dreams either. Iím not waiting that fat old man as much as fat point total from Christmas. Somewhere in the future wish list would also be allowing the game a breather to improve the quality of football. Meanwhile Iím prepared and canít wait for the Boxing Day game. So Mum, if you read this, donít wait me home for Christmas dinner, I have points to prove in here.


Aki


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