Of Bastian’s character test, Jose’s apology

So finally, Bastian Schweinsteiger has left Manchester United and joined Chicago Fire, the MLS team in the USA.  Schweinsteiger completed his move and already has played a match for his new team, and the cherry on the top was him scoring a goal on his debut match for the new team.  All seemed like a fairy tale after what he endured during his time with the Premier League team, under the new manager, Jose Mourinho.

I had written an article on Schweinsteiger few months back. It was about his conduct and how it could be viewed from human resource perspective.  Here I want to talk about the same conduct shown by Schweinsteiger and also talk about Mourinho’s apology.  

Schweinsteiger conducted himself in this whole muddle like a thorough gentleman.  Not once did he utter a word (absolutely not in public) against his manager, against his club, against his teammates, and/or against the treatment that was meted out to him. Absolutely nothing negative came out from this 2014 FIFA World Champion.  

He was sent out to train with the under-21 side. He went and trained with them. He was made to train alone. He trained alone.  And when he was sitting out during the first team matches he posted photos of him at the stadium, cheering on his team.  He posted good luck messages on social media on match days. He remained positive throughout.   

During the early days of his exile when it became clear that he was not going to get any time on the field of play, he still remain tight lipped about his situation in the press. All he mentioned once was, yes, I have spoken with the manager and I don’t have any problems with him.   

But everyone knew this cannot last long. Schweinsteiger did not have a place in Mourinho’s plans and that he had to leave. And leave he did. When it all happened last month, things went by quickly – the signing of the contract, the official announcement, the medicals, the visas, warm welcome at the airport, the gaffe at his first press conference, his first training, first match and the icing on the top, his debut goal.  It looked like a smooth ride. Except that it was not.

It must have been difficult period for Schweinsteiger. Yes, he was still on Manchester United’s payroll. Something people like to bring up often when he was being treated as an outcast by the manager. But as a player, as a self-respecting athlete with a stellar career, he surely  would have preferred to be on the pitch rather than warm the benches and take home that not-earned-money.

We did get a brief insight on Schweinsteiger the person on his time as a benchwarmer. In an interview with Rory Smith of the New York Times, Schweinsteiger mentioned that his time in exile from the first team at Manchester United was nothing more than a character test. He talks about how is not a negative thinker and that even when he was training alone with one of the United’s fitness coaches he enjoyed his time in the training.  

That positive attitude we can conclude allowed him to ride the tide during his tenure at his former club.

Since the new manager played such a huge role about Schweinsteiger’s situation at the club, let us talk about Mourinho’s reaction to his move. Mourinho while Schweinsteiger was at the club, made it amply clear to the world that he did not fit in his plans. Yes, in between something happened which saw Schweinsteiger return to training with the first team and also get some match time. However, Schweinsteiger in that interview with Smith refused to divulge the details of this conversation except that after the talk he returned to the first team training.

Now Mourinho after Schweinsteiger left the club talked about his time at the club. About how he felt bad about the treatment he meted out to the player. He said he regrets how he treated Schweinsteiger and mentioned that he had apologized to the player.  It is nice of Mourinho to acknowledge this in public. However, it still does not exactly exonerate him for his role in the whole saga.   

Schweinsteiger surely passed his character test with flying colors.  He didn’t crack under pressure, he didn’t allow negativity to overpower him and most certainly he didn’t take the route that many take – rant on social media and/or plant stories in the media about his plight. I could be wrong, but even if there were stories, they appeared more genuine than planted.

However, I am not sure about Mourinho’s apology. Sure, it is brave of him to acknowledge his mistake publicly.  And the established mode when someone apologizes is to accept it gracefully. But there is a part of me that wonders, if we are hurting/harming someone knowingly and then apologize after the act, where does that apology stand? Is it even an apology? Err in judgment, sure. A genuine mistake, sure. A brain fade (I love this term, thank you, Steven Smith!), sure. But when you continue to inflict humiliation on someone for a sustained period of time, and then apologize after the event, does it even count as an apology? I am not sure about it.

You can’t kill someone and then apologize to them, I am sorry, I killed you. I didn’t intend to harm you but nonetheless it still happened. Not done.  

Of course, in the Bastian-Jose story we only know what has been written in the press and the chatter we got in the press conferences.  We do not know all the details of what happened behind the scenes.  All we can say now is, everybody is in the happy space.  

Bastian at Chicago Fires on the pitch, getting that game time.  Jose at Manchester United with the players he wants in the team and not having to deal with someone who he didn’t want in the first place.