It’s time to forgive Coutinho.
On social media, over the past few weeks, I’ve seen people chastise and criticise him. I’ve seen people spew in his direction some of the angriest vitriol I’ve ever witnessed. I’ve seen the love of his fans diminish, fading into, at best, ambivalence and, at worst, pure hatred.
All this from people who would gladly sing the iconic and cherished words of You’ll Never Walk Alone. You see the irony, right?
But while others see a villain, all I see is our hero, Philippe Coutinho. Our little magician. And I can’t help but feel that people forget that he has a mind of his own – a life of his own – and opinions and desires which have been filtered through an entirely different set of life experiences.
So let’s put our rational hats on and look at the two fundamental reasons for hating Coutinho.
- “He wanted to leave so @%!& him”.
This notion that footballers owe their clubs loyalty is nothing more than aggrandization. Clubs don’t show loyalty to players unless they’re something special, and players shouldn’t be expected to in reverse. As fans, we expect loyalty because our club is the best club, right? To be biased is understandable – it’s part of what being a football fan entails – but it’s not a rational reason for hating the guy. To prove you’re being biased, just swap Coutinho in your mind for Van Dijk or even Oxlade-Chamberlain; Coutinho has behaved no differently to the former and imagine if the latter had previously been one of our players, but was now singing the praises of Arsenal and Wenger. All of a sudden they’re the bad guys.
More pertinent, put yourself in Coutinho’s diminutive boots; as a young boy he grew up in a poor area of Rio, where every child idolised Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Ronaldo, all of whom played for Barcelona during his childhood. Children in the favelas didn’t wear Liverpool shirts – they wore Barcelona ones. Coutinho has always been extremely shy, to the point where he nearly didn’t go through with his trial for Vasco for fear of being laughed at. That shy Brazilian boy is now being offered the opportunity to play for one of the – if not the – greatest clubs of all time. There is no bigger compliment and no bigger opportunity to fulfil his life’s ambitions. If you had the chance to fulfil a lifelong dream, you would and should go for it, no matter what. Those with any empathy at all should understand the uniqueness of the situation Coutinho has found himself in.
- “He faked a back injury”.
Well, we don’t know that. Objectively, we have more evidence to suggest that it was a real injury than a made-up one. And rational people should first and foremost base judgements on evidence, not speculation.
“But if he was injured, why was he suddenly fit enough to play for Brazil?”. Firstly, that’s how injuries work – you get better at some point. Secondly, the Brazilian doctor, Simoni, put Coutinho’s back injury down to stress. According to many, this is hilarious in its absurdity. But to view this as absurd, we would have to ignore the fact that the most common causes of back pain are tension and anxiety.
Having suffered from back pain myself, I recently read Dr John E Sarno’s Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection. He believes that almost all back pain is due to stress and anxiety. In an era where the psychology of the mind is finally being taken seriously, it seems odd that so many seemingly educated people are entirely discounting the idea that Coutinho’s injury might have been due to something psychological. His dream potentially slipping through his fingers would have laid heavily on his mind. A mind not made for business decisions or politics – just, simply, football. And don’t go giving me the “he’s on 150K a week” argument. It’s irrelevant how much he earns. Do you think of the starving African kids every time you’re stressed about traffic or the weather? It’s all relative, and the mind doesn’t make exceptions for rich folk.
So, there we have it. Logically, there is no reason to hate Coutinho. If anything, such is the fleeting nature of footballers careers, coupled with Coutinho’s need for confidence in order to perform well, we should love him even more while we still have him.
We shouldn’t spew hateful vitriol in his direction, boo him, or even be ambivalent or cold; instead, we should sing his name from the terraces. After all, he’s our little magician, for the time being at least. And we need to enjoy him while he remains ours.
Who is more likely to perform well? A tentative Coutinho whose every touch is met with a chorus of boos, or a confident Coutinho, whose name is sung from the terraces, despite everything? Let’s show Coutinho why he should never want to leave. Let’s show the world who we really are. Let’s show them that once you’re a Liverpool red, You’ll Never Walk Alone.