Twitter brings socially alienated Premier League footballers closer to fans

Ever since money began pouring into football around the time of the Premier League’s inception, players have become more and more distant characters.

No longer are they working class heroes that live on the street down the road and take the same morning tube as you, modern day footballers are untouchables. They’re other worldly beings that have very little in common with the majority of everyday people.

Hideously flash cars, money grabbing transfers and garishly decorated mansions are all beyond the reach of the common man.

Now I’m sure an elderly gentleman whose ears have continued to grow will tell you there was a time when this wasn’t the case and you could meet your team’s star down the local boozer after a game and talk tactics with him.

This isn’t true of now though and there is very little point in blindly reminiscing about such a rose tinted time, as in actual fact despite footballers ever increasing wages widening the gap between them and their supporters in the stands, the lines of communication between some of them are once again begin to open up.

This is thanks to Twitter. Now this might not be familiar medium of communication to all and even to those who are familiar with the format, it could well just be seen as an extension of Facebook and only suitable for unnecessarily communicative 14 year olds.

To a large extent this opinion isn’t far from the truth. Popular trends are set by people commenting on the same thing and these are identified with a hash-tag, so unfortunately you can end up knowing the most banal pieces of information about a person, thanks to a fashion for a certain topic.

If though you’re willing to sift through the banal and self indulgent comments and even the endless links to Robbie Savage singing in his car and the hideously unfunny banter between him and Rio Ferdinand, there are actually commentators and players who can be enlightening and informative.

When an issue surrounding a player arises, in the past they have usually maintained a professional silence and towed the company line by spouting clichés when asked about it the following week.

Twitter though offers an instant reaction from those that are unable to hold their tongue, which gives the previously restricted view of fans a peak into the world of professional footballers.

Recently accusations made by Arsenal’s Denilson stating that Cesc Fabregas wasn’t a natural leader were immediately played down by the Gunners captain and Tottenham’s new signing Steven Pienaar revealed his move from Everton had been finalised, before it was published by the popular press online.

Ferdinand and former player and pundit Mark Bright also hold question and answer sessions that draw the increasingly distant and other worldly figures into closer contact with fans.

Ferdinand seems fully aware of the divide between players and fans and he told The Sun “some people say footballers are so far removed from reality, but Twitter is a platform to get on a level playing field with people.”

He continues “I like it because twitter connects you to people.”

His surprised reaction to Wayne Rooney’s transfer request last year displayed an honesty to a headline grabbing situation that is normally smothered by a press release.

Unfortunately this socialist ethos of equality comes at a price as Ferdinand has an odd penchant for posting pictures of his dinner, seemingly as part of his attempt at being an everyman, but with over 440,000 followers many are able to get a picture of him as a person and not just as an elite sportsman.

Ryan Babel recently took his expression too far for the FA’s liking, after he posted a mocked-up picture of Howard Webb in a United shirt online following a contentious game against Liverpool and as a result he was charged by the governing body for misconduct.

The incident would have probably caused him some embarrassment, but it meant that fans of Liverpool, United and football in general were at least afforded the opportunity of a glimpse of his views and given the chance to interact with him on the subject, when previously he’d have maintained a robotic silence.

Largely un-policed and unregulated Twitter can also be used as a platform for people to verbally abuse others, as in the case of Glen Johnson’s vicious tirade on pundit Paul Merson after the Liverpool full-back received an unwelcome review from him and QPR players have threatened Blackburn’s El Hadj Diouf, although this is perhaps a little more understandable.

Whist this is undoubtedly unsavoury, this promotion of freedom of speech is an unusual addition to football in this century and as Noam Chomsky once said: “If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like.”

Twitter it is far from being the same as sharing a bus with the team’s man of the people, but this latest form of social media has been embraced by a select few of the professional elite and it has helped to slowly close the ever increasing divide between fans and the other worldly lifestyles of the mega rich players.

Tags: Premier League, Social Media

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