I’m an Arsenal fan and over the last two years I’ve found Jose Mourinho’s comments about Arsene Wenger a bit harsh to say the least. How can he possibly justify describing a manager of Wenger’s quality a “specialist in failure”? I mean, we’re talking about a manager who has won the Premier League three times and the FA Cup six times.
For months I found myself bemoaning to my wife about Mourinho’s jibes at our much-loved manager. My wife thought I was becoming a bit obsessive as I retold her time and time again that Mourinho should be careful what he says, lest he finds himself being humbled. I’m pretty sure he hadn’t entertained such thoughts. After all, he is a manager of unique quality, having won 21 trophies – his record speaks for itself. He is undoubtedly one of the best football managers of all time.
And yet having described himself as the ‘Special One’, the football world has been left utterly stunned by the capitulation of Chelsea only a few months after winning the Premier League crown. Finding themselves sitting 15th in the league, one point above the relegation zone, Chelsea took the decisive action to sack their most successful manager. Who would have thought a manager of Mourinho’s quality would be out of a job just four months after signing a new four-year contract? It looks like chickens have most certainly come home to roost.
I’ve watched with deep interest the media coverage of Mourinho over recent weeks, because it in some ways reflects my own story. My success is nothing like Mourinho’s – his is on a totally different scale, but for some years I tasted the success of starting a property company from scratch and watching it rise to have a multimillion pound turnover within just a few years. It was a high risk business, buying apartments from plan from builders and turning them quickly to investors for a profit. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, but when the Daily Telegraph featured a large article on me in 2005, I could hardly hide my utter delight.
Over the next two years I dramatically changed into a ruthless and arrogant man. To say I was reckless is an understatement. My mother, who also happened to be my business partner, warned me time and time again to be level-headed. But what could possibly go wrong? Land was in short supply. Demand for property was rising. The future was bright. The future was Manoj!
Then I started buying whole blocks of apartments in areas I couldn’t even be bothered to visit. The end was nigh. The 2008 global financial crash decimated my business. From being worth millions I suddenly lost all the value in my property empire. Though the business didn’t go bust, it’s a shadow of its former self and I’ve had to learn the hard way that I’m certainly not invincible.
This morning as I walked to the train station I thought of Mourinho. I feel for him because in a much smaller way I know what it feels like to be at the top of your game and receive adulation for your success. And like Mourinho I know what it feels like to suddenly discover that all that talk of being indestructible is just a load of nonsense. Mourinho will surely have success again, but this run of defeats will always be on his CV. We’re all capable of thinking too highly of ourselves when things are going well. When the seed of self-confidence takes root it can grow at relentless speed and before you know it we can find ourselves blinded by trust in our own capabilities. But like Mourinho, none of us are immune from being humbled.
As we approach Christmas, let’s not forget the real ‘Special One’. Who would expect a creator to die for the created, a king dying for his servants? But that’s the Christian story. It’s the story of God Almighty becoming one of us, identifying with us before humbly walking to His death some 33 years later, that we may be forgiven and reconciled to God. It’s an extraordinary story, a story our human minds will never be able to fathom. The story of our God enduring a brutal death for sinners like me. Jesus Christ could have relished the adulation, but instead he always pointed to the Father as he prepared to wash all our feet. Such humility. Such love. The perfect model for us to follow. Let us give glory to the truly ‘Special One’ this Christmas.