Social security


By - Monday 30th March, 2015

Social media’s influence is now massive in football, and Nadim Lilani looks at the contentious case of local lad Carlton Cole to assess its pitfalls


“Big win today! The boys showed great fight and thanks to the fans for their top support as usual! On to the next! #Buzzing #Wemarchon”. It has become an all-too-familiar sight: a mundane message posted on Twitter by a footballer who appears to have the charisma of a burnt scone. Uninspiring and devoid of any insight, there are many who consider these tweets block-able offences.

A £20,000 fine for a Premier League footballer is hardly hefty, is it?

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. We could spend ages discussing how boring these posts are, why they represent an opportunity wasted and whether they will ever stop polluting our media news feeds. The reality is that there are more pressing issues to be dealt with. At the beginning of March, West Ham United striker – and local Croydon lad – Carlton Cole was abused by a Tottenham fan on Twitter, and he decided to fight back. The two teams had just played each other, and Cole went down injured when his side were winning 2-1. A Tottenham fan suggested that Cole was getting too old for the whole football malarkey, tweeting, “’Hi @CarltonCole1 when your own team-mates don’t kick the ball out when you’re lying injured for 2 mins, you think it’s time to call it a day?”. Cole’s retort was short and hard-hitting: “F*** off you c***”, he replied.

The consequence of typing these four words was not so severe for the Croydonian. A £20,000 fine for a Premier League footballer is hardly hefty, is it? Worse still, the player claimed that he was only trying to be funny. “I try to keep it humorous on Twitter”, said Cole, “but sometimes being humorous does get you into trouble”. Yes, I think that a lot of people would agree with that sentiment. And think of how many of his 123,000 followers laughed at this ‘humorous’ gag. Comic genius. The joke of the decade. Well worth the punishment. How can a 31-year-old man get it in his head that this is the right way to deal with criticism? Granted, Cole deleted the message shortly after he posted it. Not that that should make any difference. What’s done is done. Doesn’t the fact that Cole has made a living in professional football – despite constant doubting of his technical ability and pace – mean that he has the mentality needed to rise above silly abuse like this?

Ah yes, that old adage: if life gets hard, make sure you profusely swear at those who have put your ability into question

Apparently not, because Cole added, “(As a professional footballer) You’re a sitting duck really and you need to try and [sic] be able to blank it out of your mind – but some of the stuff they say is too much”. Ah yes, that old adage: if life gets hard, make sure you profusely swear at those who have put your ability into question, as that will make everyone feel better and guarantee you success in the future. I can’t remember if it was Socrates or Descartes who originally coined the saying, but it’s definitely a fail-proof mantra to go by. While it is understandable that Cole wants to defend himself, would his ‘humour’ not be best put to use if were he to see the funny side of the original jab, brush it off, and get on with life? Instead, his failure to resist temptation ironically leaves him on the floor again – this time in a metaphorical sense.

Of course, there was another point of contention before Cole’s words were investigated by the FA. What if he hadn’t done the deed himself? Perhaps a teammate nicked Cole’s mobile phone from his open locker, and ‘stuck up’ for the striker by replying to the abuse. Even if this were the case, the wrongdoer still would have been Cole. With the added pressure of the social media age, footballers need to be vigilant in more ways than one. Publishing offensive messages for all to see is bad enough. Being careless enough to let a friend do it via your account? That might even be worse. The important point is this: love it or hate it, social media is more powerful than ever – and it is everywhere.

What is interesting here is that Cole’s latest misdemeanour was deemed worthy of equal punishment as this first offence

This is something that Carlton Cole knows all too well. The previous question of whether the expletive tweet was written by him or not probably didn’t cross the minds of many, bearing in mind another incident which led him to be fined in April 2011. During an international friendly match between England and Ghana, he tweeted, “Immigration has surrounded the Wembley premises! I knew it was a trap! The only way to get out safely is to wear an England jersey and paint your face w/ the St George’s flag!” What is interesting here is that Cole’s latest misdemeanour was deemed worthy of equal punishment as this first offence. So unlike the case of Luis Suarez, whose punishments rightly keep being increased every time he sinks his teeth into an opponent (it has now happened three times, for the record), Cole knows that a momentary lapse will only cost him a few hours’ worth of wages. Which is a real shame, because he is supposed to be a role model. He is supposed to have learnt from his original blunder. He is supposed to be able block out the petty calls for him to retire, rather than retaliate and incite further anger. At the end of the day, it is his choice what he tweets. Responsibility is the key – what a shame that so many footballers choose to make a mockery of it.

Nadim Lilani

Nadim Lilani

Nadim Lilani is a recent Hispanic Studies graduate from the University of Birmingham. A keen football fan and writer, he enjoys expressing his love for Croydon by documenting all things sport in south London.

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