With new stories of professional footballer’s misbehaving appearing every day, Thomas Harris takes a look at the correlation of the absence of football and scandals.
In times in which physical interaction is severely hampered, communication through social media has become more prevalent than ever before. As such, the behaviours of idolised footballers have subsequently become more heavily observed. In a completely new world in which football has been absent from such professionals’ lives for so long, athletes' personas of esteem and luxury appear to be suffering without sporting engagement.
£80 million Manchester United captain Harry Maguire was given a 21-month suspended prison sentence off the back of his involvement in a brawl in Mykonos in mid-August. While questions remain over the precise details of the ordeal, Maguire himself claims he was protecting his sister and stated after the initial ordeal he “feared he was going to die or be kidnapped”. Meanwhile in response, reports exist in contrast, stating Maguire resisted arrest and verbally abused policemen.
While Maguire is yet to be stripped of his captaincy at United, 18-year old teammate Mason Greenwood was uncharacteristically dropped to the bench ahead of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side’s defeat to Crystal Palace on the 19 September. Perhaps a tactical change, perhaps a result of the young Englishman's guideline-breaking activity while away on international duty with the England squad in Iceland in early September. Greenwood and international teammate, Phil Foden, were alleged to have invited two Icelandic women to their hotel room, breaking Government guidelines and leading to their resultant dismissal from the England squad ahead of the side’s fixture against Denmark. The behaviour of the footballers was judged to be ”naive” by England manager Gareth Southgate who felt the players' relatively lesser age was not an excuse for the behaviour, stating: "I recognise their age, but of course, the whole world is dealing with this pandemic, and there is a responsibility on all ages that they do their part."
Further up north, Celtic fullback Boli Bolingoli, a relatively new addition to the club's roster who replaced fan favourite Kieran Tierney in July 2019, was found to have taken a trip to Spain in early August. On top of the direct breaching of anti-covid guidelines, Bolingoli proceeded to play in his domestic side's following 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock at a time when he should have been isolating, risking the spread of the coronavirus across both footballing clubs. Despite completing two “negative” coronavirus tests and admitting his responsibility in the wrongdoing, Nicola Sturgeon was reported to have, in response to Bolingoli's actions - as well as the behaviours of eight Aberdeen FC players going to a pub in breach of guidelines - threatened to shut down the ongoing Scottish Football, giving the SPFL a “final warning”. Celtic's following two fixtures were cancelled due to the breach in guidelines, while Bolingoli himself received a three-match suspension before leaving the Hoops on a loan spell with Istanbul Başakşehir.
Many other football role models have failed to abide by the guidelines, such as Aston Villa's Jack Grealish who in March reportedly attended a party at an ex-teammate's flat and last year's Premier League runner-up; Manchester City's Kyle Walker who broke guidelines at a similar time, reportedly a mere day after posting on Instagram encouraging fans to adhere to the Government's policy. With so many sporting stars breaking the Government's specifically designed set of rules, it brings about the question of how suitable these characters are in baring the ability to influence millions of fans and supporters globally. With hypocrisy shown by the likes of Kyle Walker and those more relatable to today's young people in Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden, should stricter guidelines be placed upon footballers? The likes of Bolingoli and the England youngsters broke the guidelines despite football's return. This brings into consideration the question of whether allowing football to restart while the pandemic rages on was indeed the right decision at the time. Is it really worth bringing back the entertainment so many adore if certain footballing heroes are going to fail to repay that trust?