Flint's Off on One

Right, I’m going after a big one this week, and it might not make me very popular…

Perhaps the most wearily-trodden path in modern football is the disillusion fostered by out-of-touch millionaire stars and their fans. “The game’s lost its soul,” bleats Grandad Joe. “Players are so disconnected to supporters,” cries Season Ticket Steve. And who are we to argue with them? Images of Liverpool’s players boarding their team bus a couple of months ago were dispiriting to say the least. Clutching their Yves-Saint Laurent kit bags, they walked past the star-struck kids as if they weren’t there. It later transpired that the club had instructed them to not sign autographs as it might affect sales of their officially-licensed £125 signed replica shirt on sale in the club shop.

Who are the players? Ironically, given the sheer tidal wave permanently crashing into our eyes, ears and minds, we don’t actually know. Social media, we are led to believe by those who profit from it, brings us closer. Fuck off does it; gluing kids’ eyes to screens rather than playing the game isn’t connection. OK, it serves a function to entertain us, but don’t dress it up as ‘bringing us closer together’ – nauseating bollocks.

Without going too deeply into the private lives of players, it’s the people and their personalities that make the connection. It is vital that the innermost personal and private parts for their lives remain as such. If I see one more ‘wacky’ Chevrolet Challenge or whatever the hell it’s called with the most painful, forced laughter – remember the Channel 4 news team breaking out with laughter as Ron Burgundy says “we are laughing”? – I swear I will dip my eyeballs, and those of whichever ‘hilarious’ presenter is genuinely making Timothy Fosu-Mensah wet himself, in Tabasco sauce.

When it comes to media attention, there is nobody bigger than Cristiano Ronaldo of course. Try as you may, it is impossible to be avoid his dandruff-free hairline or his poker face. Now this may be just me, but has anyone else noticed the proliferation of social media posts screaming how wonderful a human being he is? Up until about three years ago, there was little mention of the extensive commendable charity work he does. All forms of media loved to propagate the myth that he is a vacuous self-absorbed materialist.

Then we began to be inundated with posts on Twitter and Facebook saying how amazing a person he is with his Save The Children and blood donor work. Videos of him doing cute workout exercises with Cristiano Jr began flooding our bandwidth. LOOK AT HOW WONDERFUL HE IS! A FOOTBALLER WHO CARES ABOUT HIS CHILDREN AND OTHER PEOPLE?? AMAZING!

I should make it clear at this point that my attack is not in any way directed at Cristiano himself. The man has, like many others, always been a hugely family-orientated man, and clearly loves his kids. Surrogate twins were born this year, and his mother lives close by to spend time with her grandchildren. Who cares if he loves himself with those laudable priorities in place. His attitude to training and preparation is phenomenal. Just look at the chiselled torso – it’s hard to avoid it, I know – and remember this is a man who turns 33 next year.

My gripe is this; why should he be forced to broadcast to the world how good a person he is? Quite frankly, it baffles me why people seem to demand footballers be as humble as monks. Be polite, considerate of fans, and a good human being, of course. The Danny Simpsons of this world could certainly do with a touch of etiquette now and again. But they are incredible, and deserve to indulge in themselves a little. None of them have just drifted in accidentally to become multi-millionaires – they worked bloody hard to make it.

Now a sensible balance is surely no too much to ask. Allow them to be flashy with a splash of arrogance as long as it doesn’t become rudeness. Let them raise their faces and puff their chests out. At the same time, however, let them get on with their charitable work and private lives without pressuring them to broadcast it to every corner of the planet. Those media managers tweeting and posting on Cristiano’s behalf must have no fingers left with all the furious tapping.

Some projects by their nature require public attention, like Juan Mata’s Common Goal. Blanket guerilla advertising of an entire personality, on the other hand, is grotesque and distasteful. After he retires, despite what media outlets and brands would want you to believe, Cristiano will be just a man. Not a demi-god, not a saint, just a father, son and maybe husband. Those children he has need to know about how much he loves them; we don’t. Not by having it forced down our throats, anyway. If we never found out his entire personal story, it shouldn’t matter, but in today’s twisted moral environment, it somehow does.

So who is the enemy here? Cristiano? His media/marketing team? Social media networks? No, my friends, I’m afraid it is you.