Unsung Heroes #2: Andre Santos
For the second entry for Unsung Heroes we have Martijn Stolze, an Arsenal fan from Holland. Here he writes fondly of left-back Andre Santos, the lovable Brazilian scamp. Also a side-note: not all of the series is based on Arsenal players. If you wish to contribute, get in touch through the e-mail address on the contact page. Take it away, Martijn!
Life needs laughter. Every team needs a joker. Every court needs a jester. In the court of King vP, with generals Vermaelen, Mertesacker and Arteta standing next to the main man on his throne, there is one person who stands out in his pure life-joy, his love of the joga bonita and a man who tweets, walks and talks as if he was a true believer of the mentality that prevails in all of Latin America, that of the pura vida. That man of course is Andre Santos, the lethal wingback with the killer stare but the heart of gold and the smile that warms me in very unusual places.
I loath with some passion this idea that teamspirit is very prevalent in modern football. As far as I have always heard or read, Wayne Rooney and Nani are sincerely disliked in the Man Utd dressing room (but don’t quote me). Vincent Kompany is the only glue holding the MCFC dressing room together in the thinnest of ways. In the past at Arsenal this has also been the case. Sure, there were the moments of beauty when we beat Barca at home or when Cesc, Na$ri and the like kissed their badges in feigned love for the club, but inside things were always simmering. On twitter recently there was the rumour that a lot of Arsenal players didn’t even attend Gael Clichy’s wedding, which took place before his move to the oil rich Mancunians. And in the last few years, plenty of fights occurred both on and off the pitch. Infighting, that is.
The reason I bring this up, is that this season everything seems different. Big personalities have come along, like the Big Friendly Giant, the bombastic Pole in Goal, the Verminator (returning from injury), Mikel Arteta and his lego hairstyle, and taken control of the dressing room. The WAGS of these gents have taken it upon them to hosts events to bring the team closer together. But in day to day training, this team missed that person who makes everyone laugh, who lights up a simple training ground routine with a mixture of the absurd and the hilarious. That used to be Eboue. Eboue is a legend and I don’t really have to explain that. Yet Eboue was, supposedly, not really very popular with the players, nor did he play a very big role in the footballing part of being a footballer. He was an overpaid mascot. With the whole Africans and Frenchmen vs others divide, he always had friends. But he didn’t endear himself to everyone, that is for sure.
Which brings me on to Andre Santos. If you are expecting an intelligent, detailed and analytical explanation of him as a player, of his footballing history, you are reading the wrong article, although Sam probably has five of those up his sleeve. Andre Santos is funny, is honest, sincere and above all, amazingly enthusiastic. He is the sort of man who can own a small green Smart and feel confident about it. That actually fits well with TV5 and RvP, one of whom owns a Nissan Figaro. He tweets with such bright optimism, a childlike interest for everything new and a clear passion for life. He is a very nice guy but with the experience needed to help a young dressing room like ours progress and improve. He has immediately become very close to the most important players in the team and also become somewhat of a mentor to some of the other players. This season, where we had very few things to celebrate, the most passionate or stirring moments have all included him. The infamous ‘gays’ tweet, the trio of him, RvP and Arteta running arm in arm towards the away fans at Stamford Bridge (which still brings tears to my eyes), the swashbuckling runs up and down the left flank, the important and frankly very well taken goals, his ability to stay very positive in light of an injury that should never have happened.
Arsenal have always been described as a team that play beautiful football. Yet we have always lacked for flair players. In recent seasons, RvP has become a clinical, allround striker, not a trequartista with a free role. We witnessed half a season of flair from the French lesbian before she decided to cash in. Even Cesc was very good, but not that flamboyant. Santos has brought some of that back. His samba style might not always be the safest option as your left back, but he scores goals, provides assists, and gave me hours of excitement about a signing when we snatched him in the summer with this video. But he has since also convinced me (if not others) that he is a very accomplished defender and with some crunching tackles, a powerful run, his dogged determination and his ability to link up with his teammates he has shown me that he can combine samba style flair with a certain defensive stability.
He will always be making jokes and showing photographers that big white smile of his. In footballing terms he has added a little colour to a very bland role in a team, and within that same team he has endeared himself to the players, the coaches and indeed the manager. He cares about the fans a lot, as he proves by tweeting his every move in his ever improving English. He may not have been a key player this season, nor been that much of a bargain, nor has he strung together the play like Arteta. But Andre Santos adds South-American sunshine to a season that was very dreary at times, he adds passion to a dressing room finally showing some cojones , he adds humour to the serious aspects of life and he manages to make me smile whenever I see him in any capacity. And I still love that moment where he went to the away fans at Stamford Bridge, after a match where everyone had written him off after about 30 minutes. He scored a goal, and played very well, and then showed us his passion and excitement when celebrating. In essence, he is a footballer like a lot of us. He enjoys every second of his life. He shows it to the world. And for all these reasons, he is my unsung hero, although, typically, because of this article, I have been very much singing his praise. D’Oh!