Chelsea defender Ashley Cole’s latest outburst, this time aimed at the crinkly suits that run the Football Association, was depressingly familiar, not only due to the player in question being involved, but in terms of the way the game has been heading for some time, which makes you wonder, what is it exactly about modern players that we dislike so much?
The 31-year-old left-back is one of the finest full-backs that you’re ever likely to see, a truly world-class player on the pitch but an odious little squirt of questionable character and morals off it. Being found guilty by an independent panel of fudging his evidence to suit team-mate John Terry’s defence over the whole Anton Ferdinand racism case, his vitriolic, expletive-laden outburst via Twitter hardly came as a surprise.
Cole has been a player dogged by controversy ever since nearly losing control of his car on the motorway at being just offered the insulting sum of £55,000 per week by former club Arsenal in his new contract, his reported philandering while ‘national treasure’ Cheryl Cole waited at home and shooting a youth-team player at Chelsea with an airgun rifle.
While you may be able to respect him as a player on the pitch, for his is practically without peer throughout Europe in his position and has been consistently excellent for nearly a decade now, it is equally as reasonable to have little to no respect for him off it, but he is just the latest case in point of how detached the modern day player has become from the fans that they purport to represent on the pitch.
It’s not just the poor judgement of people like Cole, for it obviously takes nothing for him to issue a disingenuous apology through his solicitors the moment he realises that he’s gotten himself into hot water, it’s the sheer juvenility of it all which shocks the most. This is a grown man we’re talking about here and while we all know that footballers live in a bubble, cut-off from the real world and everyday problems, it’s the lack of thought for the consequences of their own actions which makes them so easy to dislike.
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Of course, if you make footballers out to be role models from which your children can look to learn from, then you are seriously setting yourself up for disappointment. They are merely regular people, or they were once upon a time at least, who happen to be extremely talented. More often than not they lack intelligence because they’ve never had to rely on it, mollycoddled from a young age and handed everything to them on a plate.
However, a large degree of responsibility must be put down to the media, with this weekend’s action serving as a fine case in point. Luis Suarez was stamped upon by Robert Huth early on in the game, but this was overshadowed by a clear dive later on in the same fixture. The dive was given the full treatment, in terms of columns, coverage and faux outrage, with FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce referring to it as a ‘cancer within the game’, but little to no attention was given to the far more serious incident of foul play and aggressive, bordering on violent behaviour.
The reason for this is solely because Huth is not a pantomime villain and his lack of standing within the wider world means there’s little to no point wasting their time dissecting his stamp and the wider implications it could have had. Suarez, though, is a different story altogether – everyone will have heard of him, so we are force fed this one-sided version of events that regards a dive, albeit an act of cheating, as equal if not more scandalous than someone stamping on someone.
Football has merely become Loose Women but for men, ramping up issues out of nothing, making mountains out of molehills but only when it suits them and when there’s an easy target to hit. For instance, Craig Bellamy for years was derided as a terrible human being by the press simply because of his misdemeanors on the pitch, completely ignoring the huge amount of work he does for charity off the pitch and the same could be said for most players.
Far too often the media only feeds the negative, rather than focusing on the good simply because it sells more, so we are treated to these extreme caricatures and this never-ending soap opera when most of us just like watching 22 men kick a ball around every weekend. It’s gone beyond ridiculous now. While I was at Stamford Bridge the other week to see them take on Wolves in the Carling Cup, John Terry, fresh from learning about his four-game ban for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, was given a resounding cheer every single time he touched the ball – tribalism like that simply isn’t healthy for the game.
Another factor is obviously the wealth that comes with the game now which breeds a certain degree of arrogance amongst its own kind. While we’re in the midst of a double-dip recession, it seems to not have affected football at all, where even your average Premier League footballers is grossly overpaid for the job he does – breeding a level of contempt and jealousy that creates an even bigger divide between the stands and the pitch than it ever has before. The superstars you see before you on a Saturday don’t feel like normal people to you and it’s hard to really connect in a climate that increasingly treats you, the fan, like a customer.
Footballers are not role models, they never have been, but the egos, money and disregard for the consequences of their own actions only serve to highlight how the wealth within the game is distorting the people which are a part of it from society. The media doesn’t help matters much, but if we continue to lap up the melodramas with such fervent consumption, can you really blame them?
The result has seen supporters lose touch with players, which in turn leads to both sides harbouring feelings of mistrust, which has led to footballers becoming widely disliked. I for one would just much rather focus on the game itself as opposed to all of the drama surrounding it.
You can follow me on Twitter @JamesMcManus1