In the new Hector Bellerin, we see not just the fashionista, philanthropist or footballer, we see the human.
It was one of those days we all look forward to, for Hector. The day of plucking the fruit of success from the tree of hard work had arrived. Months without football left Bellerin, as he’s commonly referred to, hungrier than ever before.
Almost a year after the snap of the knee which told him his career may never be the same again, the stench of fear riddled him no more. Fears of not returning to the football pitch, of harvesting less than he was destined to, had abated. Now it was about proving himself right, about making the best of a bad situation. His enthusiasm, as cherry-red as his jersey, he stepped out and began to step up.
But no matter how hard he tried, no matter the subjective improvements, there were doubters. “He’s lost his speed,” “he needs a haircut”, “he should focus in his football instead of modelling,” “he’s slow because he’s vegan” “he’s a pace merchant without pace” were among the criticisms he received from fans of a club he represented since the age of 16. Worse yet, those not saying it, feared it may be true.
A lot had happened since the last time he stepped on the pitch. A lot that made this injury a blessing in disguise. A lack of gametime and a lack of training meant he was forced to find something else to fill his time with. Modelling was out of the picture, so he focused on mental health.
Advocating for mental health awareness among men was always on the top of his agenda. Discourse at Oxford Union and his conversations with the media have shown his interest in the topic. However, his and the comments of others in his industry were always met with the same criticism. “Oh I’m sure you’re just fine with your thousands of pounds a week, save us the lectures on mental health.” The hordes of doubters were enough to send anyone back into their shell.
This injury did something different though. It allowed him to document his journey and to focus, to show others what celebrities may go through but most importantly, to focus on himself.
Months spent speaking about his tribulations have led to a person who doesn’t need football, who doesn’t need the fans’ approval. Professional sport and stardom in general comes with one key constraint – you’re not allowed to fail, no matter what.
Finally, he’s showing a sense of belief, not in who he could be, but in who he is and who he’s working to be. His is the story that proves that planting the seeds of self-belief results in fruit like none other.
Muhammad Adam is a digital marketing, branding and logistics lecturer at Rosebank College, Varsity College and Vega School in South Africa. Having completed his masters in supply chain management at the University of KwaZulu Natal, he is passionate about understanding people and using technology to improve their lives. A Durban native, Muhammad is passionate about football. He spends his free time pretending to be a baker, thinking of new ways to spread knowledge and dreaming of behavioural economics. An open-minded individual, he would love to hear your thoughts on branding, business, football and life in general! Catch him on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/moehadam
Thanks for this Muhammad. Following Hector’s career has been really interesting, not the least as you say for observing the effect he has had on others, and the way he challenged neanderthal models of masculinity. I hope he has a wonderful season back in Spain.
Nice one Muhammad. Hector is proof of how beautifully multi-dimensional we all are regardless of how much the various systems try to simplify us. Best of luck to him at Real Betis. One of ours forever.
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A really nice piece, and great to see players getting lauded and not just booted for not supplying the identity fix for those they carry on their backs. Thousands of pounds a week wont ever give anyone mental security, (weve created mind systems that just create more obstacles not matter how many we over come) and he was right to talk of these things and you were to bring them up. Didnt he also take on the parasitical nature of fan outlets in the OU talk? I dont think he was forgiven for that! It doesnt seem right that fans can say what they like and players have to remain “professional” (silent, dumb and probably hurt)?
He was ridiculed by certain people for planting trees, which shows how fkn thick as poop some people can be.
But youre also right to bring up that we are no longer allowed to fail. It makes people and systems brittle, yet failure and success define each other, and rise simultaneously.
Hector is a much better player than hes seen at this moment, but then most of the Arsenal players are. It was good to see a piece that brings back positive focus to the players and away from the angry, demanding fans. Much nicer to me.
Thanks MA, I hope you write another piece soon.
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Hector was always mature even when I first saw him at sixteen. There aren’t many players of that age who can settle in another country so quickly and play in a new position and make it his own in the first team.
In better times we would be giving him a testimonial now and giving him the credit he deserves and educating the football illiterate about how good he was and still is.
He is very articulate even in his second language and far better educated than most of his critics.
He is yet another player with ARSENAL DNA that we are kicking to the kerb at a time we could use his knowledge and experience and I for one am gutted and once again feel something has been taken away.
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I wish Hector all the best and I think it’s the right decision for him to leave. He appears to have fallen out love with English football and his heart it appears is no longer in it. He may have lost that yard of pace but he was our best attacking fullback. The physical demands of the Premier league is brutal and if he finds his mojo he will thrive is Spain.
Another new post is up