We live in an age when we feel closer to our heroes than ever before. This is especially true of professional footballers, whose Twitter followings rank as some of the highest of any profession.
Joey Barton and Rio Ferdinand feature at the forefront of those whom we worship in bursts of 140 characters or fewer, both attracting millions of followers, but this week it was player with a following of a little under 50,000, Chico Flores, who attempted to use Twitter to right his own wrongs.
When Andy Carroll’s excellent performance against Swansea was ruined by a straight red for serious foul play on Flores, the sight of the Spaniard rolling around on the turf will have brought out a Daily Mail-style rant in many. The incident appeared to be quite mundane on reflection, and Sam Allardyce claimed that Flores’ behaviour was “generally the norm for him”.
It sparked a bizarre response from the Swansea defender, who posted a Vine (short video on a loop) clip of the one incident “for those who said I have failed”. The real question is whether he should really be attempting to use social media to clear his name.
Players can rarely be trusted it seems to speak their own mind, whether it be in press conferences, on Facebook, or indeed on Twitter. Iain Evatt recently disgraced himself with an offensive Instagram post about former manager Paul Ince.
But the most dangerous thing about these media is the immediate and widespread impact a message can have. Mezut Ozil recently tweeted a picture of himself and a couple of team-mates in the changing room just five minutes after the final whistle of the Arsenal-Crystal Palace game.
The picture was fine and there was of course no problem with that, but it demonstrates the way in which players can now immediately express their opinion with absolutely no filter whatsoever; a red-carded player could conceivably complain about a referee’s decision and be heard by millions of people, all before the final whistle has even been blown by that same man in black. It has yet to happen, but it is by no means beyond the realms of possibility.
The underlying issue to Flores’ actions is, after a fashion, one of respect. A player can be booked for dissent on the pitch, and managers are often fined for comments on referees after games, but there is less policing of Twitter. Punishments are occasionally handed down, but rarely.
Chico Flores was in fact supporting the decision of the referee, although that clearly wasn’t his primary concern, but players will regularly use social media to express their discontent at a decision. If the FA are going to fine managers for comments on live television, they must understand that the reach of Twitter is just as great as television, and must be treated in the same way.
First published on FootyMatters.com.