The Return of Tomas Rosicky: Give Me Back My Dreams
In the scheme of things I came to football late, and as much as it embarrasses me among all the people with longer histories and better claims to the sport, I have learned to admit to that. While I was aware of its existence for years, from playing as a child to reading Fever Pitch in high school, I didn’t actually start watching until after the 2006 World Cup. A few factors went into that, the biggest one that I turned 21 in May of 2006 and therefore could finally go to bars and watch games. But however it came to be, the 2006-2007 season was the first I ever watched from beginning to end.
For an Arsenal fan, this wasn’t a vintage season by any means, but it was still one with enough memorable moments to make an impression. And many of those moments revolved around a newly-signed Czech midfielder named Tomas Rosicky.
I was new- I was still learning what was good in a sport I’d only been barely adequate at as a player, even that only compared to the other 8-year-old girls at my elementary school, and had only watched a handful of times at a high level. I was still learning what I wanted to see in a player. I only vaguely knew the stars. But I knew that whenever I watched Tomas Rosicky play it was everything I wanted to see. An elegant passer with a terrier’s tenacity. A maker of exquisite shots and beautiful footwork without a bit of waste. He was the combination of beauty and practicality that is also a hallmark of much of my favorite art.
He was new to Arsenal. I was new to Arsenal. While others had their history and knowledge, I could have him, and we could forge a future. That was how it was supposed to work. It should have been just like that.
Instead, he got injured. I went to Europe in the summer and collected, somehow, one of his shirts from each team he’d played for anyway. The season started while I was there, and I hoped he would be better, for him and the team. At first it seemed to work, but by the winter he was gone. By the spring the hopes for the season were gone.
Rosicky disappeared for a while after that, and eventually it was as if he never existed. There wasn’t a big dramatic moment of injury that we could point to as why he wasn’t there any more, it was just that he wasn’t, and wouldn’t be, eventually for over a year. The immediacy of football fandom meant that effectively, he didn’t exist at Arsenal. We fans could not rely on him. We had to move on without him. We had to forget.
But I couldn’t. I am a sentimental person, and those first moments of memory meant that he would always be clear in my mind. I kept a little file in my head with a memory of each of his passes, his tackles, and those goals at Liverpool. I couldn’t forget him, because we were supposed to accomplish great things. With boundless optimism I maintained that once he recovered, he would be the answer to everything Arsenal needed.
I joke that I am drawn to the broken and the flawed. It’s not something that I believe is intentional. The best I can figure is that I am addicted to the narratives of football as much as I am addicted to the play of it. I want, deep down, my experience to be literary. I want my heroes to be characters worth reading about. The ones with unfulfilled potential, emotional vulnerabilities, and uncompromised principles. While I can certainly admire and appreciate other players, they don’t embed themselves the same way.
Tomas Rosicky might be fit again. He’s played superbly in two games so far. He’s had a full pre-season. I have never forgotten what he could do and how watching him play makes me feel. This could be my validation, or it could just be another bit of false hope, another chapter in my history of having my favorites be forever doomed. The narrative could go either way.