In the 21st century, football is a sport that is driven ferociously by the national media with breaking stories and latest scandals bringing in the big bucks for newspapers, television companies and websites. With this clamour for a story that will jump to the public’s attention footballers are now being approached to be interviewed and offer their opinions on matters that should – at times – be kept behind closed doors.
In a recent video interview, Fernando Torres placed the blame for his dreadful form and goal-scoring record at Chelsea on the shoulders of his supposedly ‘slower’ teammates. Whilst there is no disputing that Torres might actually have a point, it seems illogical to voice such grievances in the press instead of keeping it ‘in-house’. With social networks like Facebook and Twitter also becoming home to the musings of footballers these days, is it right that these players are allowed to speak as freely as they do? More to the point, why do footballers have so much to say these days?
I’m pretty much expecting the argument of ‘they’re human beings and should be allowed freedom of speech’ to follow. Whilst I agree partly with the fact footballers should be allowed to speak their mind and have opinions like everyone else, their words carry a truckload of significance in both the lives of fans and others in the footballing sphere – not least, in this instance, Torres’ ‘slower’ colleagues.
Like Joey Barton before him, Torres has gone about airing the displeasure he holds with his teammates the completely wrong way. Unlike Barton, who took to Twitter when he decied to rant about Newcastle’s owner Mike Ashley and ended up becoming the most talked about footballer in the country, Torres spoke to the official La Liga website and is now insisting his words weren’t translated accurately. Regardless of whether the interview was interpreted incorrectly, and and regardless of whether what he said was taken out of context, he still shouldn’t have openly criticised his teammates in the first place. But why did he do it? Frustration, attempting to shift the blame? Or something more sinister?
One thing that is for certain is that footballers are becoming more vocal in the written press and online, and in my opinion the amount of power they now hold in the game is the root cause. Fame and fortune have risen considerably along with the level of disrespect that players now seem to have for their clubs. Some are more concerned with keeping their name in the headlines and having their share of the limelight than anyting else.
Torres’ outburst comes just a matter of days after he was benched by manager Andre Villas-Boas for Saturday’s win against Sunderland, pushing him out of the Stamford Bridge spotlight. Would he have uttered the same words if he was still in the starting 11 or am I just clutching at straws? It’s just a theory, but I think it’s valid to say that players are now starting to come out with more controversial quotes in an effort to remain in the spotlight and garner attention towards themselves. Players know that journalists and fans will put whatever they say under fierce scrutiny and debate, keeping them relevant – whether it’s good press or bad.
Players like Torres who earn millions of pounds a year seem to have adopted a ‘no-fear’ approach when talking to the press. What do they need to worry about if they get fined or reprimanded further by their club? They earn a more money in a week than most will in a year. Some blame could be attached to the media who, in their line of questioning, could subtly coax out the responses that they know will bring in the sales for their employer. Then there is the argument that footballers should be wiser and more intelligent in how they handle certain questions and the way they answer them so not to cause controversy. People may say there is no way of telling if a footballer is being incredibly naïve or extremely astute in what he is saying during an interview.
My view is that footballers go into interviews knowing what they are going to say. They are embroiled in a perpetual crusade to remain firmly in public glare and free themselves from the risk of sliding perilously into insignificance. They feed journalists with the juicy material which they know will be splashed all over the front pages giving them prime exposure and keeping them fresh in the minds of the public.
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