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Enzo has just published his rant on the exorbitant transfer fees we have seen roll in during the current window. He specifically referenced Neymar Jr, who was paid €222,000,000 to move to Paris Saint-Germain, a club which happens to already have a plethora of big-name, big-money players. Enzo also pointed out that the transfer fee is literally the same as the GDP of Palau. Yes, Neymar was paid the GDP of a small nation to kick a spherical object around a patch of grass.

Like Enzo, I cannot allow my love of football to blind me. To me, there is nothing that can justify spending so much money on one athlete, when those funds could be used in so many different ways, with far more long-reaching, positive effects.

Yet, there is another reason I struggle to understand clubs paying the earth for individual players, and that reason is that it completely contradicts my beliefs on the power of football. A few weeks ago, the football world mourned the tragic loss of Bradley Lowery. Bradley was a 6-year-old child from England who loved Sunderland, Everton and England, and formed a remarkable friendship with striker Jermain Defoe. Unfortunately, Bradley lost his life to neuroblastoma. When he was alive, he endured long and painful treatment-more than many of us can comprehend. Despite that, his love of football never changed nor wavered. Bradley was able to be a mascot for Sunderland and England and walk out through the tunnel hand in hand with his idol. He went to award dinners with Jermain Defoe, who also visited him in hospital.

The connection that the England striker had with Bradley was clearly evident in what Defoe wrote after Bradley’s death. His tribute was, in equal parts, beautiful and heart-breaking. It ended with, “sleep tight little one. My best friend”. Love flows through every word.

In my opinion, that is the true beauty of football, and the ultimate justification for the adoration of the beautiful game that so many people feel. Football forges connections where otherwise there would be none. It builds friendships that transcend the traditional barriers of sociocultural norms or economic standing. Football provided Bradley Lowery with indescribable joy and phenomenal experiences, even as he lived through what no person should have to endure.

Stories like Bradley’s often provide us with harsh and jarring perspective. They make us question if our love of football is really all that justifiable in the wider scheme of things. It is something I have recently been grappling with: how much does football really mean? When I heard about Neymar’s transfer fee, I realised what I think about all of that. Spending a fortune on one player is not the purpose of football, nor is it the meaning of it. Football could never be that important.

Football’s true value is not monetary. It lies in connections, friendships, experiences and love. It lies in stories like that of Bradley and his best friend, Jermain Defoe. Football is not, and will never be, the most important thing in the world, because we all know the world has much more critical issues, much more trying hardships. So no, football is not the most important thing in the world, but it helps us cope when everything else gets too much.

Ultimately, football is about connecting, and connections are infinitely more valuable than a winger with good feet.

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Helena Wiseman

A lover of the game since the age of 4. Living and playing for club and school in Auckland and loving every second on the pitch (apart from the end of a losing match).

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