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POLL: Twitter- A footballer's friend or foe?

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I remember ‘Spider-man’ for its classic line “With great power, comes great responsibility”.

Well, footballers are no Spiderman and tweeting is certainly not their responsibility. But tweeting responsibly is. Ever since the advent of social networking, players from all sports have been smitten by the latest trend of keeping their “followers” up-to-date with their personal lives. However, what the players don’t realize is that they are walking on a tightrope with this obsession of theirs.

Spider-man, stand up!

Football and twitter; perhaps the two most happening words in a college campus don’t go hand in hand, it seems. Some players like Rio Ferdinand have been using twitter sensibly to change their image in front of people while quite a few others like Ryan Babel and Darren Bent have been using it for childish rants against anyone and everyone in football.

tweet tweet!!

The micro blogging site, started in 2006, first came into notice for wrong reasons when a dejected Darren Bent, then at Tottenham Hotspur accused Daniel Levy (the Spurs Chairman) of disrupting the striker’s move to Sunderland. Bent (then with the username ‘db10thetruth’), was eager to move to Sunderland and posted on his account: “Seriously getting p***** off now”, followed by “Why can’t anything be simple. It’s so frustrating hanging round doing jack s***.”


He then followed with more stringent criticism of Levy. “Do I wanna go Hull City NO. Do I wanna go stoke NO do I wanna go sunderland YES so stop f****** around Levy.” His outrageous comments on twitter were followed by his account being taken down and Bent had to release an apology saying, “I appreciate that transfers are seldom straightforward. I regret my actions and did not intend to offend Daniel Levy or anyone with the nature or the content of my posting.”
Bent created a new account after changing clubs and now goes tweeting on his new account. Bent was again involved in controversy when the England international received death threats from Sunderland fans after the player decided to switch to Aston Villa. Bent decided to take some time off from twitter only to return earlier last month.

Arsenal goalkeeper Szczesny puts more number of hours tweeting than the total number of practice hours he has put into developing his goalkeeping skills. Reacting on Gary Neville’s late challenge on West Brom’s Graham Dorrans, the outspoken goalkeeper tweeted, “How can you not get frustrated with decitions [sic] like that going ALWAYS Man Utds way?! Its a clear pen and sending off!”
(yup, he misspelled ‘decisions’. With great power comes great responsibility, hence proved).

If that was not enough, @53Szczesny53 sprinkled salt on Ashley Cole’s wounds by tweeting “Is it a plane? Is it an aeroplane? No, it’s just Ashley throwing Chelsea out of the FA Cup.”, after the England left back’s penalty against Everton in the FA Cup went flying over the post.

@cesc4official

Szczesny’s teammate and club captain Cesc Fabregas also expressed his anguish at the referee’s decision of not awarding the penalty on his twitter account. @cesc4official tweeted, “Whats the diference between this handball & my 1 vs spurs? Referees dont want us to complain abt them but they make life dificult 4 themself”

Not taking a leaf out of Bent’s book, ex-Liverpool striker Ryan Babel posted a picture of referee Howard Webb in a Man United shirt after the FA Cup tie between the two teams where the outspoken forward thought that Ryan Giggs penalty along with a few other decisions went against his club. The FA imposed a fine of £10,000 along with warning the player over any future outbursts of the same sort, thus making Babel the first player to be punished for posting on a social-network site.

Howard Webb: the latest United signing, according to Ryan Babel

Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere followed the others and his comment on referee Phil Dowd came into the FA’s notice. (Inconsistent refereeing needs to stop. It’s killing the game. If Diaby goes … what’s the difference between that and Nolan on our keeper?? #Joke.”) However the England youngster managed to escape without any punishment, much to his manager’s relief.

Liverpool defender Glen Johnson was also caught crossing the line on his twitter account. The player failed to handle criticism from former Arsenal player Paul Merson on a TV show and tweeted, “Comments from alcoholic drug abusers are not really gonna upset me and who is Paul Merson to judge players, he was average at the best of times” followed by, “The only reason he’s on that show is coz he gambled all his money away. The clown!”. The player later gained composure and deleted his comments as soon as possible.

Its not just the Premier League players who have lost their cool on twitter. Ex-Northern Ireland international Tony Capaldi was found guilty of  describing his own team (Morecambe FC, League 2 side) as “rubbish”. In response to a comment from his follower, “2 Morecombe goals from your throw ins last weekend. That’s more than Cardiff have scored from corners this season! :(“, Capaldi replied: “trust me you would rather be watching cardiff than that rubbish!”. His twitter account was subsequently taken down.

A player was put on the transfer list by by his club following his post on twitter. Striker Marvin Morgan, who plays for League 2 side Aldershot Town F.C. was also fined two weeks’ wages after he expressed his anger at fans who booed him earlier in the match. The dejected striker tweeted “Like to thank the fans who booed me off the pitch. Where’s that going to get you! I hope you all die.” The player was subsequently loaned out to League 1 club Dagenham & Redbridge F.C. for the remainder of the season.

In an one-of-its kind case, wife of Spurs player David Bentley launched an attack on the manager Harry Redknapp. Frustrated by the constant in-outs his husband had to face each week, Mrs. Bentley tweeted: “What’s happening? F*** all and its starting to wind me up!! Sort it out Harry for f*** sake.” She later tweeted something about ‘people taking her tweets too seriously’ and deleted her original tweet.

Keeping the above stated incidents in mind, the FA was quick to issue guidelines to the players who use social networking sites to interact with their fans directly. A statement on the official website read, “Comments made on [social network sites] may be considered public comment, any comments which are deemed improper, bring the game into disrepute, or are threatening, abusive, indecent or insulting may lead to disciplinary action. Comments which are personal in nature or could be construed as offensive, use foul language or contain direct or indirect threats aimed at other participants are likely to be considered improper. Participants are required to act in the best interests of the game at all times and should be aware of this when using social networking websites.”

The Scottish Football Association followed suit and recently wrote to all clubs stating that they will be looking carefully at comments made by players on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Twitter has changed an average fan’s view of football. The fans can now connect to their heroes more than ever before. But the biggest aspect of Twitter and football is that lovers of the game can learn news of their club within minutes of it happening. Though, the use of twitter should me limited to a certain extent.

Wolves manager, Mick McCarthy sums up the entire twitter dilemma, “Too many tweets make a tw*t.”

So, the big question arises, Twitter: friend or foe? Drop in your answer and let us know what you think.

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