Why is it that soccer stars often shoot themselves in the foot when they go public on social media? Here’s what Juventus striker and Dutch international Eljero Elia posted on Twitter this past weekend:
"i hate lucio #inter he kick #stekelenburg in the face he have to get a red card :@ i am really angry."
The choice of words and the grammatical errors reflect Elia’s fury over a horror challenge by Inter Milan defender Lucio against his Holland team-mate Maarten Stekelenburg in a Serie A match.
War of words
Lucio’s attack was indeed dreadful, leaving the Holland goalkeeper unconscious after what slow-motion images showed might have been a well-aimed kick in the face. Deliberate or not, the foul caused quite a stir in Italy. But on Monday, Lucio deftly deflected the criticism by responding to Elia’s tweet with astonishing reserve.
“I would never say something like that. I don’t hate anybody," he told reporters, adding that he couldn't understand Elia’s outburst. "I don’t know why he said it, but this isn’t important for me. The only important thing is that Stekelenburg is all right."
A few hours later, Lucio dropped some of his political correctness when he launched a counter-volley. “It was an involuntary situation. What Elia said is stupid," he snapped. But by that time, Elia’s tweet had already been deleted. His angry message had boomeranged into his face. It had drawn attention away from an ugly foul and towards the use of social media as an outlet for personal emotions. “Elia has lost the war of words” was one comment on Twitter. “Very silly hate-tweet” read another.
It’s not the first time Elia has kicked himself in the face with an awkward tweet. Last year, as Holland prepared for the World Cup, the winger sparked a racism row with a video stream on Twitter in which he appeared to insult Moroccans. The ensuing controversy prompted Holland manager Bert van Marwijk to impose a Twitter ban for the duration of the tournament.
And Elia is not the only international player who has learned the hard way that Twitter comments can land you in hot water. Last week, Moroccan-Dutch goalkeeper Khalid Sinouh tweeted he ‘felt a little tired of all that 9/11 propaganda’ and closed it with "pffff". The tweet produced a public outcry and a reprimand from his club, PSV Eindhoven, which was quick to distance itself from his statements.
Early this year, Liverpool striker Ryan Babel was fined 11,500 euros after posting a link to a photoshopped picture showing referee Howard Webb in a Manchester United shirt after his team lost 1-0 at Old Trafford through a penalty.
Imposing the fine, the FA Regulatory Commission made an interesting statement, which players like Elia and Babel should take to heart:
"Social network sites like Twitter must be regarded as being in the public domain. All participants need to be aware, in the same way as if making a public statement in other forms of media, that any comments would be transmitted to a wider audience. It is their responsibility to ensure only appropriate comments are used."
In other words: think twice before you post anything on Twitter. Control your emotions and above all, treat social platforms on the internet as if they were traditional media. All Dutch international football players have had extensive training to deal with the press, it’s about time they received some social media training too.