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Pressure in football takes a toll on managers in different ways. For Arsene Wenger, it’s meant less time for the prayers that were such a big part of his childhood.

“I prayed a lot when I was a kid because I was educated in a Catholic area,” Wenger said in an interview. “Religion was very strong to us, to ask the priest if I can play on Sunday afternoon ... now I am a bit less (religious) because when under pressure you only think of our game.”

“Belief is important, and I am forever grateful for the values my religion has given,” he said. “And basically if you analyze it, all the religions spread good values and positive values, and that is important that you find that in our sport.”

For some, in an era of expanding pay packets for players and ticket prices for fans, the sport can seem to have lost its soul. Wenger is not so disconsolate.

“The values that are important in the game today are the same (as always),” Wenger said. “It is a respect for others. It is learning to lose. It is learning to cope with pressure. It is learning to cope with a team sport. Of course the environment is different. Why? Because of professionalism and the money.”

With an economics degree and as a long-time advocate of greater financial responsibility in football, Wenger has tried to adopt what he calls a “socialist model” for Arsenal’s wage bill.

“I always say to the players, ‘Forget the money,’” Wenger said. “What is important is how well you play together, what you share together is much more important. The money is only a consequence of your experience. The real experience is the game.”

Wenger built his reputation in England on unearthing talented foreign prospects and turning them into Premier League stars.

For Wenger, it’s a complex issue in a world where national identity has become increasingly blurred.

“We live in a global world,” Wenger pointed out. “I have players who have three different nationalities. And at the end of the day I ask them, ‘Where do you really feel you belong?’ And that is for me where you are from.”

Plucked from the relative obscurity of Grampus Eight in Nagoya, Japan, Wenger has delivered three Premier League titles and four FA Cups over his 17-year reign. As for the future, it’s one he clearly envisages in his adopted homeland.

“I can see the rest of my life in England, why not?” Wenger said. “I feel comfortable in this country because we share a common passion for football and as well I am very thankful for this country for having accepted me and giving me a chance,” he added. “I am happy on the football pitch.”

And he shows no desire yet to leave it.AP

What is important is how well you play together, what you share together is much more important. The money is only a consequence of your experience. The real experience is the game.

Glossary

Disconsolate – without consolation or solace


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