Leading article: Let my people go

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The Independent Online

"In the small, mean dressing room at the Carrington Training Ground, Ronaldo sat chains on his wrists, chains on his feet, and a weight heavier than chains lay on his heart. All had faded from his sky. Moon and star, all had passed by him. Madrid home, and indulgent owners; with all its refinements and splendours – all gone! and in place thereof, what remains?

It is one of the bitterest apportionments of a lot of slavery, that the footballer, sympathetic and assimilative, after acquiring, in a refined family, the tastes and feelings which form the atmosphere of such a place, not the less liable to become the bond-slave of the coarsest and most brutal – just as a chair or table, which once decorated the superb saloon, comes, at last, battered and defaced, to the barroom of some filthy tavern, or some low haunt of vulgar debauchery.

The great difference is that the table and chair cannot feel, and the footballer can; for even a legal enactment that he shall be 'taken, reputed, adjudged in law, to be a chattel personal', cannot blot out his soul, with its own private little world of memories, hopes, loves, fears, and desires."

With acknowledgments to Harriet Beecher Stowe's 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'