It’s disturbing that it’s as easy to write about off-the-pitch stories as it is about those on it. Fifty years ago footballers were taking public transport and cycling to 3pm games on a Saturday afternoon. Now their Bentleys and Ferraris would almost run over the fans just to ensure a few extra minutes walking around the stadium with oversized headphones on. If footballers slowly created a sub-culture over the last two decades it seems to have now become a culture of its own.
Revelations about Wayne Rooney’s private life are not much of a surprise in spite of the fact that he married and had a baby with his childhood sweetheart. While the little details cannot be taken at face value (for example, who knows if Rooney really mumbled ‘no big deal‘ by way of apology) there is no defending the main pitch of the story even if the number of times he committed adultery is inflated slightly or the amount of money he paid is inaccurate.
Rooney joins John Terry, Ashley Cole and Peter Crouch (one of these things is not like the others) as recently-outed players and I’m sure there are probably more on the way (it was reported last week that three England players had recently applied for injunctions to stop stories appearing in the press about their private lives). I imagine that the likes of Rooney have contempt for those who sit in judgement of him, his millionaire-inspired sense of entitlement and inflated ego crushing anything that challenges his character and lifestyle.
But the contempt is shared and a lot of football fans – and non-football fans alike – resent the way that highly-paid footballers treat their adoring public – ergo, there is much pleasure taken when they are humiliated in public by sleazy headlines. But is Rooney humiliated, embarrassed or shamed? The papers claim that he’s sobbing and claiming his life’s in ruins. But if that’s the case then why the hell do these footballers do it? They know that hookers and flings are going to get a publicist and go to the media when the time is right. Rooney’s cousin Natalie (hardly a paragon of virtue herself) nailed it when she said “he’s obviously got more money than sense”.
His sponsors Nike have come out in support claiming that the revelations are a “private matter” but you wonder how lurid things would have to get before they consider that one of the men representing their brand has become toxic. Or have the likes of Nike become desensitised to all this carry on now?
Opposition fans will continue to boo the players concerned but they’ll still come to the games and buy the merchandise so why should Wayne Rooney or his employers care? Ashley Cole lost his wife, David Beckham kept his, and John Terry is still playing for England. All of them are earning multiple-millions a year. All these latest allegations has proven is that high-profile footballers inhabit their own cultural bubble where the moral compass has long run out of batteries.