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Footballers aren’t out of touch but football sure is

It was classic television news media. Describe how Arsenal’s TV channel had to apologise for Jack Wilshire’s language before going on to show the very offending clip and then apologising for his behaviour. It is almost like Sky Sports News (news is used very loosely in that title) wanted us to be offended.

Personally I wasn’t offended by Wilshire saying Spurs were at all. Wilshire is a lifelong Arsenal fan, slightly drunk at the end of the season celebrating a cup win and is generally a bit dim. Frankly I would have been shocked had he not said “Tottenham are shit.” Furthermore in his defence Spurs are a bit shit. As Alex Ferguson allegedly used to say to his players before playing Spurs “Lads, its Tottenham.” Need I say anymore?

Within the few weeks since other cases of footballers behaving badly have reared their heads. Aston Villa multi-national starlet Jack Grealish passed out on a pavement in Tenerife, Raheem Sterling inhaling laughing gas in Ibiza while the rest of us find Liverpool football club amusing enough. More disturbing was the behaviour of some of Leicester’s reserve players in Thailand, who were promptly fired after a video surfaced of them sexually humiliating and racially abusing a few poor women in a hotel room like it was sport. All during the club’s “good will” post season tour.

In the last few days Arturo Vidal became the big name to fall off the rails by smashing up his car under the influence of alcohol, nearly killing his wife and anyone else in the nearby vicinity in the process – he was lucky he didn’t. This was less than 48 hours before he was due to play for Chile in the Copa America.

The outcry has been strong. The players need protecting. The players are out of touch with normal people. The players are out of touch!

All points are nonsense. Male footballers act exactly like we expect young men to act, especially when rewarded massively for the inconsequential ability of leathering about ball. They drink, they take drugs they show off to “the lads” by treating and talking about women like garbage. Really is it any wonder gay footballers stay in the closet?

Out of touch though? Certainly not. The behaviour of “the lads” only highlight the need to better educate young boys on how to be a decent human being and chuck our patriarchal, macho society in the bin. Footballers are as in touch with the rest of us than ever.

They don’t need protection they need an education.

Football itself though, is out of touch.

Sterling and Grealish’s behaviour while daft is harmless and much in line the behaviour of most young people. You’ll be hard pressed to find people who didn’t take drugs or get so pissed they passed out on a street. I’ve passed out in worse places; back gardens, hotel entrances, stranger’s beds even a construction site once! These days I’m a picture of good health and I’m still just 28. Everybody had a good old laugh when Rio Ferdinand after the 2008 champions league win boarded a plane drunk or Freddie Flintoff shook hands with Tony Blair while barely being able to stand. Rugby players, those bastions of private school privilege are celebrated for loutish behaviour.

Those Leicester City players’ behaviour was far more troubling although hardly uncommon among young men. Treating women like pieces of meat is a sin committed by many men young and old and as far as the racist remarks go; look at the actions of Chelsea and Liverpool fans in relation to John Terry and Luis Suarez respectively or the racist trolling on social media of black Manchester City and Liverpool players by Manchester United fans. This is without even mentioning how Sheffield United fans were climbing over each other to sing the praises of a convicted rapist only several months ago.

The three Leicester reserves were rightly fired for their disgraceful and far more troubling behaviour, however, they were a three reserve team no hopers. They were never going to make it in the Premier League but replace the names James Pearson, Tom Hopper and Adam Smith (not the Enlightenment era Scottish Philosopher) with Marc Albrighton, Jamie Vardy and Robert Huth and you have a different story. No way on Eric Cantona’s Earth would Leicester City have fired three key players no matter how disgusting their behaviour.

The evidence for that attitude is demonstrated is demonstrated in Chile’s treatment of Arturo Vidal. Vidal’s speeding and drink driving was unbelievably stupid, at any time of year, never mind mid-tournament. It wasn’t so much that he could have been hurt rather than somebody else could have been killed. The Chilean FA and Jorge Sampaoli should have sent Vidal home and suspended him for a lengthy time. It was the least unspeakably idiotic behaviour deserves. His club should at least suspend him too for at least 10 matches.

Chile didn’t and Juve won’t as he’s too important to what is in essence something fairly meaningless pastime, but a popular and lucrative meaningless pastime. Just like Liverpool never suspended Suarez or Chelsea suspended Terry despite both being caught on camera hurling vile insults.

Football, institutionally seemingly has very little desire to punish its highly paid male footballers for behaviour that is as in touch with many other young men as Boris Johnson is with another man’s wife. Most other professions would have you booted out and blacklisted for the kind of behaviour Vidal, Suarez and the Leicester City three exhibited. However money trumps morals and the decaying, old stuffed shirts who run the game are more out of touch with the sea changes in our society than the average high court judge.

Footballers are not out of touch but football itself sure as shit is.

More Stories Arturo Vidal Jack Grealish Leicester City Raheem Sterling