I read the full transcript of Hector Bellerin’s long interview with Arsenal official website, where he spoke about a wide range of topics that go beyond football and, like many others; I was impressed by the maturity shown by this 23-year old boy, who sounds very conscious of the bigger picture.
I won’t go into any debate about climate change, waste recycling or mental health issues because this is not the right platform and I am definitely not an expert on any of those topics.
Something Bellerín said gave me a lot of food for thoughts and struck me more than I expected, though:
“[…] when I raise these issues I always have a backlash in terms of ‘you should just stick to football’
I realized how frequently I read the “stick to football” backlash when any footballer attempts to bring up a discussion about anything but football and it suddenly hit me: why isn’t this outrageously shocking?
Apply the same conversation to any working place and you’ll understand that this kind of reaction doesn’t make any sense.
Football fans often point out how professional footballers are apart from reality, live in a golden cage or how much they are detached from their own supporters but are also quick to tell the same footballers to “stick to football”, whenever they leave their usual paths.
Hector Bellerín switch to veganism sparked a huge debate and so did his Q&A at Oxford Union, when he openly spoke about his interest in fashion.
Is there anything wrong about going vegan, when you have a full team of specialists following you closely, as is the case for Hector Bellerín?
Is there anything wrong in liking fashion, knowing that he grew up in a family where your grandparents used to have a retail store and make clothes themselves?
From a football fan’s point of view, a professional footballer should live like a hermit who trains extensive hours every day and play games when called upon, while the reality says that professional footballers have a lot of time on their hands and are “just” human beings, with hobbies and concerns, too.
I refuse to believe to the “I breathe, eat and sleep football” stereotype of professional footballer and I definitely don’t expect any of the Arsenal players to train, go home and think about football until the next game or training session – which borders insanity, by the way.
They are all professional athletes and have everything they need to look after themselves, at least physically. In addition, modern football is so demanding that the Adams/Parlour-style raids to the nearest pub are not an option anymore. Therefore, they can do whatever they want off the pitch, as long as they are giving their all while wearing the red and white on it.
I think that the “stick to football” backlash may have some deeper reasons, something that palliates a sense of inferiority that some football fans have towards professional footballers, in some ways; footballers are young, rich and are living the dream the large majority of football fans had, to make a living through their childhood passion.
Due to this unforgivable sin and the fact that they don’t live the average football fan’s struggles and don’t experience the everyday’ s difficulties that “normal” people must deal with, footballers should limit themselves to amusing the audience and be grateful for that immense privilege – in a sort of compensation.
It always astonishes me the sense of possession that many fans feel towards footballers and how many things players owe to fans; since they “made it”, footballers are forever indebted to fans, who are entitled to any kind of judgment about how footballers should play, train, behave, comb their hair, pick their clothes and cars. Basically, the way they live.
Kick that ball around and entertain me, little monkey!
Accept all my insults (racial, sexual, religious) and don’t you dare to reply back, little monkey!
Truth is, paying your damn season-ticket doesn’t buy you a Hector Bellerín and doesn’t make you superior to any fella who had the quality and luck to make it into professional football.
It’s fairly common to hear footballers often referred to as dumb, spoiled beings whose only purpose and ability in life is kicking a football but, hypocritically enough, football fans want them to “stick to football” each time the speak out and simultaneously accuse them of being too football-centred if they stick to the “I think we played well”, “it’s all about the team” script.
I’m far from saying that all footballers are hidden geniuses but it is highly inconsiderate to immediately silence and ridicule those who want to raise interesting discussions with yet another hideous “stick to football” reply.
They don’t owe you anything but some of them are willing to give something back and if your first reaction if to scuttle them down, then the problem is not veganism, long hair, fashion taste or anything like that.
You are the problem.
Fans should expect more involvement from them in big social issues and a more active participation to the life of local communities, given their wealth and power of influence.
We should push them to do more, to think more, to help us more because they can and some would be really happy to.
Thirty-something Italian, currently in Switzerland. Gooner since mid-ninties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. Twelve years ago I started my own blog (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Debate, don’t insult or you’re out.