Knowing when to retire -The great philosophical decision – by Freddie Kissoon

The great philosophical decision of Zinedine Zidine

Freddie Kissoon

Jun 02, 2018  Features / ColumnistsFreddie Kissoon

Days after winning one of the coveted football championships in the world as coach of Real Madrid, its iconic coach Zinedine Zidine has resigned. It will go on as the greatest irony in sports anywhere in the world in recent memory.
If you look at it from a sports angle, you may not understand his motive but if you use the philosophical approach, you may realize this was a sensible psychological decision that all humans should consider if they are in a similar position as Zidine.     

Zidine, since 2016, has chalked up impressive victories in world football as manager of Real Madrid. That club won the Championship League three times with Zidine. As normal with human behaviour, why with such phenomenal success, would you want to leave? The reason is legacy. And there is no bigger example than Nelson Mandela. He figured out that a liberator’s role and a president’s job are two different roads; the latter is paved with trouble, deep, serious trouble.

When he came to power as president of South Africa, his record and legacy as one of the great liberators of the past hundred years was intact. Mandela probably figured that the climax of that legacy was to lead post-apartheid South Africa. And led he did. Sensibly, he asked the question; if I go on as president for two, three terms, could I endanger that great legacy that is emblazoned on the face of history?

The answer, I believe he told himself, was yes. Mandela served for one, uncontroversial term. He died with his legacy in a state of impeccability.

Across the border, it wasn’t so for Robert Mugabe. One of the great freedom fighters of Southern Africa, his crowning success was the final moment of the liberation of his country when he became its first post-colonial president. Then it went wrong. One term became two, then three, then four, then five to the point where his legacy began to unfold. His role in history has been soiled.

There is the great Mandela. Is there the great Mugabe? The next generation in Zimbabwe will read that Mugabe wanted to make his wife the president and that, along with other unacceptable attitudes, led the army to depose him.

It is a humiliating experience to see people who made a phenomenal contribution to a particular endeavour and create a historical name for themselves being ridiculed in the media, books, and magazines. Some are ridiculed by prime ministers and presidents and to read that they are no longer useful and to read about conspiracies to remove them. I can think of Elizabeth Taylor.

Taylor was one of the world’s most talked about and photographed human. As she got into her sixties and seventies, she refused to see that time waits for no one. She still wanted to be the woman the world admired when she was in her twenties. She hung on to the coattails of younger celebrities. I remember seeing her appear at a concert with Michael Jackson, more than thirty years her junior, and she was booed.

It didn’t go well for our own, great cricketer, Shivnarine Chanderpaul. He was dropped by West Indian cricket at a time when he was 38 and didn’t have the form he did when he was 28. He was subject to all types of criticism by the sporting media. Is it possible his credibility has been dented and that would not have happened if he had gracefully retired before he reached 38? He is 41 and still seeks selection to play regional cricket for Guyana. Is he taking the place of an eighteen-year-old who needs the opportunity?

It is possible that Zidine was thinking of his legacy? Did he say to himself, let me leave while I am still a hero than five years down the road to have people call me a has-been and a geriatric and embarrass my family. That happens in sports and politics. Extraordinary performers simply do not know when to ride away only to find people bringing the horse to their gate and urging them to get on the saddle and never come back.

In sports, there are short memories and gargantuan ingratitude. Think of Golden State Warriors’s coach, Steve Kerr. He has put his team on the world map. But make no mistake; if down the road the Warriors begin to falter, the press will humiliate Kerr.

The great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in a warning to LeBron James recently wrote; Ageing athletes are treated like terminally ill patients, with everyone speculating when our demise will finally come.” Zindine did the right thing. It is best to walk away while a hero than fade away as a dying troglodyte.

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  • Olive  On 06/02/2018 at 7:58 pm

    Well said. Torough description of retirement!

  • bernard  On 06/03/2018 at 9:22 pm


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