After a voice recording of someone who sounded like Hector Bellerin speaking about a move away from Arsenal appeared online, it got me thinking about the amount of unrealistic expectations we heap on these footballers, who have almost become reality stars.
With social media at our finger-tips, it’s easier than ever for fans to keep up with their favourite footballers, and celebrities in general.
We watch them attend fashion shows, eat fancy dinners and go on fabulous holidays. And while they don’t often keep us fully updated on their every secret, most do a decent enough job of engaging with fans. Well, their PR guru does at least.
We get to see their homes, their cars, their partners, their dogs… We almost feel as if we actually know them.
It can therefore sometimes be easy to view footballers as fictional characters who are strictly there to entertain us. Not humans with their own lives and emotions, which we only see a fraction of on social media if they allow us.
This makes many fans feel comfortable enough to message or tweet them questions, memes or just relevant funny stuff. It’s a nice relationship to have with someone you admire and, in that sense, the world of social media is truly amazing.
One player who shares a reasonable amount of his life on platforms such as Instagram is Hector Bellerin, who seems pretty in-touch with what fans are talking about.
He’s only 22 after all, so you imagine that, like most young blokes, he’s attached to his phone 90% of the time.
However, with this fan engagement comes those who will abuse it. People who will abuse privacy because they’ve already been given an inch, why not take a mile?
Forget human boundaries and decency, if they’re on Twitter, they’re fair game… At least this is how some fans seem to think.
Therefore, when Bellerin was asked about Arsenal Fan TV during his talk at the Oxford Union recently and he didn’t even try to pretend he didn’t know who they were, the right-back was front and centre for the tidal wave of abuse that was coming his way.
Bellerin laid into the fan-run YouTube channel, accusing them of not really being Arsenal supporters since they’re making money from the club’s misery.
“It does sometimes pop up on your timeline. I see it sometimes, some friends say ‘oh have you heard what that guy on Arsenal Fan TV said,’,” Bellerin said.
“It’s so wrong for someone who claims to be a fan and their success is fed off a failure. How can that be a fan? It’s just people hustling, trying to make money their way, which everyone is entitled to do.
“For us players it doesn’t affect us. If they want to have fun with it then have fun. When you grow you realise what is important to you to take [on board].
“If a coach comes to me and says you’ve done something bad I’m going to take that advice. If someone from ArsenalFanTV says this guy needs to do this or that I’m not going to listen to him.
“They’re entitled to their opinion and the way they want to do it. If people find it funny then go watch it.”
Of course, people love to get outraged and Bellerin’s opinion did just that. Robbie from Arsenal Fan TV responded and social media went crazy.
The Spaniard was so overcome with fans misinterpreting his words that he had to put out message on social media just to clarify what he’d said. He also pointed out that he’d spoken about far more serious topics than Arsenal Fan TV at the Oxford Union, such as mental health.
There's some misleading quotes going around. At no point have I criticised Arsenal fan base. I have nothing but respect for all the support we get through ups & downs. I just voiced my opinion about a platform. Guess some people just can't take opinions about themselves🤷🏻♂️
— Héctor Bellerín (@HectorBellerin) February 17, 2018
And then it started to get even worse.
After the Manchester City game, an Arsenal Fan TV member tweeted Bellerin to ask whether the player would be handing over his wages from the game, since, as the Spaniard said, you shouldn’t earn money from failure.
Evening @HectorBellerin, just finding out who you’re donating today’s wages too? It’s only fair, seeing as you cannot earn money from failure.
— MR DT © (@MrDtAFC) February 25, 2018
Before this however, a recording, which I mentioned before, mysteriously popped up.
— #YoPierre (@rsenalfans) February 20, 2018
The recording came from Twitter account @rsenalfans.
The audio clip is allegedly of Bellerin talking about leaving Arsenal, how Arsene Wenger had told him that “things are going to change” and “things are going to be much better”.
The person also says they now have “the strength to fight them” and they need “to take on a fresh challenge”.
Some fans used the unconfirmed audio to abuse their own player even more while others fell over themselves trying to explain how it wasn’t Bellerin – just a fake. Someone doing an impression. Etc etc.
The thing is, while I appreciate the fans wanting to stick up for him, they’re sort of missing the point.
In all honesty, while the recording could be fake since Bellerin is speaking to one of his presumably Spanish reps in English, it DOES sound like him. It COULD be him. But it doesn’t actually matter.
What does matter is that a 22-year-old bloke, who has desires and ambitions, who’s just trying to do his job at a club that appears from the outside to be in serious trouble, may have had his privacy needlessly invaded.
David Ornstein, who Gooners usually hail as the Ornacle, said back in September that Bellerin wanted to leave last summer, so why are we surprised that he might still want to go, especially back home to Barcelona after his family moved back last year?
Of course he’s going to talk about his options.
Footballers aren’t just robots who only appear once or twice a week to play a match, they have lives off the pitch and, as much as we love Arsenal, we can’t expect them to as well. At least not all of the time – for all we know, if that is Bellerin, we could have just lost a match. We don’t know when or where that audio was record.
By not only somehow recording the alleged conversation between Bellerin and another person, whoever obtained it and then uploaded it has completely overstepped their boundaries.
Trying to monitor and police what Arsenal players are saying off the pitch in private is some Nineteen Eighty-Four s**t that I want no part in.