05 March 2014

Robben: I didn't dive. Also, I hear the Pope is not Catholic.

It will come as great relief to know that, in Arjen Robben's own estimation, he did not dive when Bayern Munich came to the Emirates in February in a sequence that got Wojciech Szczesny sent off, left Arsenal down to ten men, awarded a penalty-kick to Bayern, and dramatically changed the tempo if not the outcome of the first leg in Bayern's favor. However, for those paranoid types who always sniff out a conspiracy, it's time to lay your weary heads to rest and cry no more. No less an authority on the subject than Mr. Robben himself is here to allay your fears. After all, it was a "pretty scary moment" for him, and so we can excuse him just a bit if it has taken him some time to work through his feelings, sort out his memories, and speak truth to power about the affair, which threatened to sully his otherwise pristine, clear-as-crystal reputation as a player who never, ever goes to ground except under the direst of circumstances.

Wait. Wrong dive. Sorry.
Speaking to the assembled media, a visibly shaken Robben bravely put to rest any allegations that the tumble he took was a simulated swan-dive. In a voice that occasionally trembled, no doubt still shaken by flashbacks to that awful moment, Robben testified as only a misunderstood victim can: "Wenger's comments are typical for a losing coach. I don't care much about it because it's not the first time he acts like this." This prompted a flurry of activity as advisers rushed over to Robben and whispered in his ear. Straining forward, reporters could only pick up snippets of the exchange, something to the effect of "wrong tone" and "stay on message."

Robben nodded, dabbed a handkerchief to one eye just moments before a solitary tear could roll down his cheek, and added, "it was a pretty scary moment for me. I picked up a serious injury in December after a similar foul from Augsburg's goalkeeper." Indeed, that injury was so serious that he could only manage to play 180 minutes in Bayern's next two matches, somehow managing to soldier on and, through sheer grit and toughness alone, score three goals. Truly, he is an inspiration, for in overcoming not just the physical trauma but the emotional scars in such fashion, he has proven that all almost-nearly-but-not-quite injured players everywhere can still experience moments of glory.

Here's the one I was looking for. Silly me!
However, Robben went to detail the living hell that each day has become. "The only thing I still remember is a 'bang' against my leg and me lying on the ground." It is the stuff nightmares are made of. One moment, you're dreaming of scoring a goal; the next, you're figuring out which way you're supposed to spin when someone bumps into you and—bang!—you're on the ground, not knowing what hit you. Why, it's a wonder that Robben hasn't developed some kind of multiple-personality disorder to prevent the heebie-jeebies from keeping him up nights. Plucky l'il guy.

Pressed further, Robben delineated a difference between diving and what happened on that dark night in London lo those many weeks ago (no, not really). "The thing is, this was not a dive. Last time, maybe it was a dive. You see me go head-first and I stretch out my hands in front of me, like so"—Robben put forward his hands in a diving motion—"like a swimmer, you see? That is a dive. This time, you watch. I spin around more like a dancer and fall. Not hands first or like a dolphin does. How then could it be a dive? There is not even water nearby. So do not ask me about diving." It was then that, perhaps overcome by the emotional turmoil brought about by being forced to relive the horrific moments of that day, Robben spoke no more. An adviser came forward and put his hand gently on Robben's back, which sent the Dutch player flying backwards into the curtains behind him, a look of excruciating pain writ large across his face. When no red-card was issued to the offending player, Robben got up, limped around in an agonizing fashion for several minutes, and left the room.