by Eric Tan
It is not pleasant to open the papers and read about the latest sex scandal of any of our players but when it’s about someone like Ryan Giggs it makes things ten times worse. And when a few days after that you found out that he cheated with his brother’s wife, that’s just downright painful.
The modern game has very few role models that us supporters can look up to and Giggs was one of them. The tabloids of today are rife with the various misdemeanors and indiscretions of the Terrys, Rooneys and Balotellis but if there was one player untouched by it all it was Giggs. He represented the pinnacle of professionalism and loyalty and as age eroded his pace and stamina he demonstrated an uncanny ability to roll back the years by gracefully adapting his play to suit the demands of the game. One of Manchester United’s greatest players and, with the retirement of Neville and Scholes this season, the last of the famed Class of ’92 to still grace the pitch of Old Trafford, Giggs epitomized all that was good in football and his eight year affair with his sister-in-law has left an irrevocable stain on what would have been an illustrious playing career.
We have seen the kind of vicious abuse that fans of rival clubs dish out to the likes of Rooney and Terry following their sexual indiscretions and it is not hard to imagine the kind of reception that Giggs will get when he steps onto the pitch next season. In many ways it will feel far worse than what rival fans directed at Rooney because in the case of Giggs it represents one of the most horrifying falls from grace imaginable. Too often in the papers we read about the latest disgraceful behavior of this-and-that player sleeping with his best mate’s wife, shooting students with an air rifle, or chucking darts at a fellow player. But never in our wildest nightmares would we ever contemplate Giggs being added to that list. And to think that his actions would probably earn him a place at the top of it is more than many of us who grew up worshipping him can bear.
The biggest question being bandied about today’s papers is as to whether Giggs should hang up his playing boots in the face on this embarrassment. The answer is simple: Giggs should not – and cannot – retire. His sole means of redemption lies in the very manner in which he achieved his legendary status. The football pitch is the only place which can present him the means of transcending the mediocrity of everyday life, where it transforms mere mortals into heroes etched forever in the minds of every football fan.
Outside the stadium facing Old Trafford is a statue of three of Manchester United’s finest. The man on the right of this holy trinity is a winger known as George Best, a player whose personal life was marred by almost every mortal sin imaginable from womanizing to alcoholism. The legacy he left us with, however, was not of his demons off the pitch but his genius on it, where memories of George Best evoke images of a diminutive winger running down the wing turning fullbacks inside out with his mesmerizing flicks and incredible control of the ball, not the wreck of a man whose final message as he lay on his deathbed beset by multiple organ failure was ‘Don’t die like me.’ It is the same for Giggs. The only way for him to banish his woes off the pitch is to lace up his boots, step onto it and play like the legend we all know him to be. And when he finally calls time on his career, we will remember him not as the man who is now, but as the legend who, to use Sir Alex’s words, glided down our left wing ‘like a cocker-spaniel chasing a piece of silver paper in the wind’.