November 9th, 2010
Footballer Frolics: Just Because It Feels Good?
Happily, they have each other. For the time being, it’s probably going to remain that way. (Getty Images/Daylife)
It’s here. It’s there. Apparently, it’s ruddy everywhere. Let’s be honest, who was surprised when news broke this weekend that Newcastle United’s Andy Carroll (single) and his care in the community worker (married) Kevin Nolan had been busted for allegedly taking their celebration of Nolan’s hat trick in the Magpie’s 5-1 demolition of Sunderland a little too far**? That’s lady friend far, for those of you who’ve missed it.
But Arsene Wenger? Defending himself against allegations of infidelity with a younger woman? Yep, we admit it. We didn’t see that one coming.
So why is this happening? Why do elite soccer players (and their managers. We see you, Avram) seemingly find it impossible to remain faithful for more than ten seconds? In the interests of our future happiness, we decided to see if we could figure out what the hell is going on.
When the English Premier League was set up in 1992 no one could have dreamed of the impact it would have on the lives of the players. From minimum wage muddy boys to global fashion icons, ‘football player’ now equates to ‘playboy’ in the eyes of the world and the lifestyles of the richest and most talented are followed like a soap opera by a celebrity obsessed public.
The fact that the super-injunction has now become common parlance will testify to that. For while success on the field is exciting, scandal off it is far more newsworthy. In recent years, player indiscretions have become fair game to a certain section of the tabloid media and it’s rare a week passes without a new scandal involving a female, a (usually married) player and an illicit liaison in a cheap hotel. This weekend’s shining examples included.
In England particularly there is an unspoken requirement for men to be in a relationship. Many club managers prefer their players to be married as it ‘settles’ them and after Tiger Woods’ and Wayne Rooney’s recent alleged transgressions, it’s clear to see that sponsors are heavily reliant on a family man image.
But something is wrong here. The England NT’s history in this area, not to mention the ever growing list of unfaithful male celebrities implies that the settled ‘married with kids’ life with the magazine spreads and photo opps isn’t sufficient to keep a guy faithful. And it’s always their fault. The tone of newspaper reports implying that money and fame is corrupting and players don’t know the meaning of morality.
Seems a little too easy, though. Instead of looking at the effect, what of the cause? What if the pressure to marry and be perceived as one thing completely goes against what young guys want to be doing, even need to be doing? After all, how frequently do we read about single footballers ‘enjoying’ themselves while out clubbing? There’s no story there, is there? It’s only when there is a wronged woman and preferably babies involved that it becomes interesting and more importantly, media worthy.
The pressure on players to conform to an ideal is huge and for many, lucrative. But the pressure to take advantage of what is being offered, seemingly on a plate is apparently greater. Which brings us onto the other issue here. The women.
Over the last ten years there’s no denying it has become culturally acceptable for women to pursue footballers in order to gain a certain type of lifestyle. This lifestyle has been pushed via celebrity magazines and other media as aspirational for years so why wouldn’t women take steps to attain it? It’s easy to talk about the role of women in society these days, how we can have it all, how there is no glass ceiling, you can be what you want to be. But for many women, access to education, a career, hope of personal fulfillment is merely that. Talk.
From this perspective, the footballer becomes the prey, worshipped, sought after. An easy way to the top. And the player is elevated; a King on his throne, admitting or banishing women from his court according to his whim.
So if women are prepared to put themselves in this position, if this is the price they are willing to pay to become one of the chosen few, should players treat them with respect? Why? We read the stories in the papers condemning their behaviour but who hangs out in a club’s VIP area hoping to catch an eye? Who spends the night then sells the story for a tidy sum? Who is the predator here?
Ooh, isn’t it fun to be judgmental from the sofa? Let’s up the ante a little here, shall we? Picture the scene. You are in a club looking scorchio (natch). You’re not on the lookout, you’re simply enjoying a night out with your bishes, but via a series of serendipitous events, one Xabi Alonso and entourage just happen to be chillin’ in said VIP area. You catch his eye. You melt.
Where’s your moral code now? Does your mind immediately flick to every ovary busting shot of Xab’s and his bubs? To his gorgeous wife Nagore, girlcrush of this parish? Are you retreating to a corner to continue your evening in peace, smiling secretly to yourself because for a split second this beautiful boy noticed you? Or have you accelerated from librarian to street walker in a four second window?
Hmm, not quite so black and white now, is it?
Blame is so easy to hand out; whether it’s the women who look for it or the guys who are so up for it and have no problem separating ‘love’ from ‘party boy lust’. The sense of entitlement that receiving thousands of pounds a week for kicking a ball around a field confers, the small sacrifice of dignity it takes for a woman to take that risk, compared to the money, status and opportunities she would have available to her if she catches the right eye.
As long as there are tabloid newspapers there will be speculation, gossip and kiss n’tells. While footballers are being paid extraordinary amounts of money, there will always be a section of women for whom the struggle for equality is nothing and economic reality is everything.
It’s just unfortunate that while we’re all having such a good time, someone has to pay the price.
**Granted, it would appear Kev didn’t actually hook up with anyone on the night, but really: bringing back women to your family home at 5 am…? That’s just bollocks.