Oliver Holt from the Daily Mirror had commented that missing a drugs test is just as bad as failing one, prompting Ferdinand to send him a private message over twitter, saying ‘You fat prick. U got something to say to me about missing a drugs test say it when U see me. You’ve had plenty of opportunities’.
Holt then responded by publishing the message on his twitter feed, sparking a mass debate among the Twitter community.
I am delighted, not because we had access to a highly entertaining outburst between two respected professionals, but that a debate has uncovered some need to know truths around a matter of huge importance.
The response from Ferdinand, who might now be regretting his unarticulated private message to a national journalist, highlighted the massive insecurities he still has about the issue. Moreover, he proved that he doesn’t believe his missed drugs test should be brought up for debate, most likely to cover his own back.
This is not what the game needs; Ferdinand should be as open as possible about what happened rather than trying to sort it out in private. It does nothing to dissuade the few people out there who believe he did cheat.
Inadvertently however, Ferdinand has opened up a fresh talking point. The fact that a professional sportsman appears to believe he was unfairly punished sparks the suggestion that he hasn’t learned why what he did was so wrong.
This then leads us onto other debates. For example, was the punishment severe enough? Is there a better way to convey the seriousness of drugs in sport? Should there be more awareness, particularly in the football business, about drugs in sport?
There is never a bad time to debate the serious issues in any sport, and the fallout from this twitter tantrum has led to an interesting insight into the attitudes of professional athletes in a crucial aspect of the game.
Above all, however, and something that doesn’t delight me as much, is that this debate has shown how low the relationship between the press and the footballer has fallen.
There is a very poor attitude from professional footballers towards journalists who have perhaps not helped that opinion by writing overly critical and personal pieces.
This means that when it comes to a one on one interview, footballers rarely open up and talk in depth about life as a professional, thus creating speculative journalism and limiting the potential for sensible discussion and debate.
There is also tight control by the agent or by the parent club’s PR manager about what is said by the player.
There seems to be no platform for a player to speak his mind, despite Twitter ironically proving to be just that before endless warnings came pouring in about being responsible from agents and managers alike.
One thing is for sure, if the current relationship continues deteriorating at the rate it currently is, more and more footballers will become sectioned off from the general public, left to live in their own little world.
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