When one considers the people that, in their lifetime, affect them the most profoundly, a number of different individuals will come up. Family members, friends, partners, as well as a huge number of other sources of inspiration. These could be historical figures or people in the public eye, and many of us are at one time or another inspired by the determination, skill and character of a sportsman or woman. For many in this situation, Severiano Ballesteros will be on that list.
Quite simply, Ballesteros was an all-round inspiration. Without veering into sycophancy, Seve changed the sport of Golf forever, transforming the image and popularity of the game across the globe. With the sad news of his untimely death on Saturday, his native Spain lost perhaps the greatest sportsman it has ever produced, golf mourned the passing of one of its greatest exponents while his achievements were commended at home and abroad. Ballesteros was, to put it simply, an inspiration.
Few will ever pick up a golf club with the same impact as Seve. Self-taught, Ballesteros went on to win five majors in a career that also saw him become one of the all-time greatest Ryder Cup players and a winning captain, as well as world number one. Some of the shots Seve Ballesteros played in his time were absolutely sublime. Highlight reels, which have been quite rightly abundant over the weekend, emphasise to golf fans young and old the skill and technical prowess of this incredible character. Ballesteros’ charm and charisma saw him single-handedly re-invent the public image of the sport, something that still resonates today with the increased popularity of golf with the younger generations. For people like my father, an avid golf fan and long-time appreciator of Seve Ballesteros, the emotion with which he recounts tales of the Spaniard’s career, and the sadness that his early passing provoked speaks more profoundly than anything, mirrored by the overwhelming number of tributes to Ballesteros from fellow professionals and fans.
Severiano Ballesteros was, and is, an inspirational character; not only for his sparkling career but for the dignity, determination and bravery with which he fought the unspeakable hardships he faced in his latter years. A more genuine, inspiring sportsman you will struggle to find, and I am gladdened that the tremendous professional and personal achievements of this wonderful human being will live on through the adoration of his friends, family and fans. Rest in peace, Seve.
In an understandably deflated atmosphere in the sporting world, this weekend’s Premier League program has been a welcome source of entertainment. Drama at both ends of the table, with West Ham fans beginning to realise the impending doom of their situation, Blackpool, Wolves and Wigan fighting to avoid the two remaining relegation-places, while at the top a successful weekend in Manchester has seen City move to within touching distance of a coveted fourth place, while United have all but wrapped up their record 19th Premier League title.
It was while watching Manchester United’s impressive 2-1 win over rivals Chelsea that Ballesteros kept popping in to my head. On a weekend where the achievements of one sporting great have been reiterated and celebrated all over again, the escapades of another two have proved the source of inspiration for me personally, as Ryan Giggs and Sir Alex Ferguson moved to within a point of what will be the 33rd trophy they have won together. Even with the constant exposure we receive regarding United’s achievements, some statistics still leave one baffled.
Giggs was imperious against Chelsea, time and time again dispossessing players who are, quite literally, ten years younger than him. He out-ran everyone on the pitch, including the impressive Park Ji-Sung and Wayne Rooney, playing a perfectly waited pass to Park to set up United’s first goal, and skinning Branislav Ivanovic before dinking a wonderful ball across the box to provide the second. Giggs’ display rolled back the clocks again, in the same way he has been doing consecutively for the last three or four seasons. His manager didn’t even dispel the notion that Giggs will still be playing in 2013.
Then there’s Ferguson himself, a man who, as a proud Arsenal fan I have had my moments with, but whose unending passion for the game is nothing short of miraculous. Sir Alex still loves big matches such as these as much as he did when he arrived in Manchester in 1986, promising to “knock Liverpool off their perch”. Well, 25 years later his team, the physical embodiment of an empire that encompasses so much more than the thirty-or-so players that make up the Manchester United squad, have inched one step closer to the realisation of that dream. With one more point from two games, against strugglers Blackburn and Blackpool, Ferguson’s aim will have been achieved, and the jubilant nature of the Scot’s celebrations after the final whistle against Chelsea emphasise the boyish enthusiasm the legendary manager still has for the game. His tactical decisions this season have been better than ever, his eye for talent (as proved by the wonderful acquisition of Hernandez) is unblinking and his hunger for success in insatiable.
At a time when we are all blindsided by the intrinsic unfairness of life, and in a sporting sense shocked by the tragic manner in which the life and career of a legendary athlete can be cut short, to see Giggs, and to a greater extent Ferguson, enjoying their careers as much now as twenty years ago is a true source of inspiration for us all. When the family of Severiano Ballesteros is mourning the loss of a true great, it is heartening to see that there are still people left that appreciate the vast fortune of their situations.
By Liam Smith – Arsenal fan – @RowZBlog