By Tonye Altraide
Today my mind wandered and brought me to think about Dimitri Payet, a wonderful maestro that understands how to manipulate the ball in such an artistic way.A way that is typical of the French, in nearly everything they do. Perhaps I am slightly biased here, taking into account that I am infatuated with the French culture. But back to the topic, most of us can agree that Dimitri Payet is a first class player.
After his exploits at the Euros, hosted in his homeland, where he helped Les Bleus get into the finals,he returned to a struggling West-Ham who were desperate to win games. Towards the end of last season everything was going rosy and on the up for the ‘Hammers’. They finished the league in a decent position and qualified for the Europa League. They had good players in good form and a manager who was able to get the best out of the team. They played toothsome football at times, which kept our mouth watering for more, due to the influence of Payet and Lanzini. In addition, one of their biggest triumphs last year was the move to their new stadium see illustrations below.
They secured a mega deal! They managed to score a deal to lease the stadium that hosted the London Olympics games – for nearly a century! How much are they paying for this 99-year deal, you ask me? £2.5 million rent per year! Chicken change!
Illustration before stadium was transformed
An artists’ impression of West Ham’s new stadium, The Telegraph, 14-04-2016
Pictures after stadium was transformed
West Ham’s new stadium inside and outside during the Europa League matchon 25-08-2016
However, this triumph could become a threat to their future success, as they have not been able to reproduce anything close to their last season form in this new environment. It is not easy for a team to perform well in a new stadium, as the players need to adapt to their new surroundings. Their supporters are growing increasingly anxious by the day. More fights were occurring and stewards were unable to manage a football crowd in a stadium that was designed for Olympic games. Their once confident manager looks tetchy at every post-game interview he conducts.
Inside West Ham’s Olympic stadium during the Europa League match against Astra Giurgiu- The faces of the people behind me clearly indicates how the team was performing
To make matters worse, their most influential player – Payet– has decided to go on a strike. The man is simply not happy anymore, does not want to play and they do not want to release him either. He believes he has more quality than to be stuck with a dysfunctional team playing ridiculous football with shambolic defending. To be fair, he is 29 and wants to play for some of the big boys. He probably fears he will play the rest of his life with a team that is facing relegation. He faces a real conundrum. He reminds me of our Super Eagles legend, Jay Jay Okocha, who remained at Bolton Wanderers even when he knew fully well he had the ability to play for a much bigger club. This endeared him to the Wanderers’ faithfuls but more importantly it showed us how confident he was in his abilities as a footballer. It showed us how it did not matter who was playing alongside him, whether they were good or bad, he knew he was able to raise his game and essentially raise the team.
For Dimitri, being great may involve him putting trust in his abilities, just like Jay Jay has done in the past. Whether he ends up at the biggest club in the world or he stays at West Ham, trusting in his abilities is a constant and remains a given. This is more than trusting that you are a good player individually but believing that you can single-handedly raise the performance of an uninspired team just by your own performance. Going onstrike midway through the season causes a mess for both him and the club. He deserves to play for a bigger team but he also deserves to believe in himself more than anything. The question is, has Payet really given up on the Claret & Blue, forever?