Thursday, March 30, 2023

T4O’s Top Rant: Why Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher Is No Better Than Mario Balotelli

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Jon Depp (JD)
Eccentric writer, effervescent blagger. What he lacks in cheekbones, he makes up by being cheeky. The footballing Jack Sparrow pompously navigating the high-waves of journalism. 2015 International Football Blogging Award Finalist, the pin-up boy of The 4th Official.

The wars of words, or as you call it, banter. It’s the evil, incestuous cousin of what I’d call ready-wit. While wit is all about the subtlety, banter is all about savagery. I’m well-versed in this thing you call banter. I have used it profusely in my writing and is a signature of most of my commitments over social media. Not because I intended to, but because in order for your communication to remain relevant, its has to cast aspersions, hype up the hyperbole and the humour has to be dark, and your words borderline caustic. This nature of dialogue has taken the forefront of the footballing social media scene, where the spirit of one-upmanship reigns supreme. Now, I’m not saying it’s always something that would make you question where we, as a race are hurtling towards, but I would be lying if I say it wasn’t the case, most of the time.

The collective PR effort today is more than we have ever required in living memory, apart from, of course, the propaganda-driven drivel of the two World Wars, but that aside – it’s a fair reflection of the disingenuousness around for all to see. It’s no different in football. We aren’t gullible enough, nor naive enough to consider footballers as role models anymore. If they are inclined to any code of conduct to their peers or spectators, it’s mostly towards the hand-distributed club protocol pamphlets and the obligations they owe to their brands.

Consequently, that reality is no way dissociated with the conditioning they have to go through, as fickleness of fortunes and fan opinion are at an all time high. But as this little to and fro between Jamie Carragher and Mario Balotelli goes to show, there isn’t any honour among their own kind to speak of.

Carragher, a Liverpool legend in his own right, though still disregarded as many rivals as a lump of a centre-back with no footballing skills to speak of, had one thing going for him – his professionalism on the pitch. Oftentimes, from the peak and to the dying embers of his career, he has been regarded, all the same, as a try-hard (in the best possible meaning of the word), someone who put his body on the line, and one who bore no ill will for a stray tackle or a challenge directed at him (though, his history with former Blackburn skipper, Lucas Neill, explained in his autobiography paints him in a completely different light, off the pitch).

Now retired, Jamie Carragher, the TV personality, has no intention of garnering respect from his fellow footballers any longer, as the nature of his trade is to be incendiary and critical. But does that have to be the case all the time? On television, yes, granted, that is his job, to call a player out; but on social media, where one must still practice due diligence, purely as its fan-driven entity, and infinitely more uncensored and scathing – the 38-year-old’s childish dig at a struggling Mario Balotelli, was disgraceful. And this is coming from a guy who, in the past, was actively involved in the Bootle-born’s charity organisation, such was my reverence for the man and his ideals on the pitch.

I’m embarrassed for Jamie. I’m sure you’d call his tweet a mild-mannered banter, but for a Mario, who for all his wanton stupidity and lack of application, finds himself at Nice – it’s the last thing his confidence needed. Scroll down his impudent, and witless reply, and you will see scorn so personal, that it’ll make you wince. Jamie full well expected that, but I’m not sure what he gains from it, apart from retweets. Certainly not respect.

There would have been grounds for censure, had Mario held the club at ransom, asking for a severance package (they do exist in football, where the club is legally bound to pay off your remaining salary if your contract is getting unilaterally terminated. A mutual termination costs slightly lesser.) Yet there has been not a peep, no demands from the much-maligned miscreant, who could have dug his heels and stood to gain a few odd millions, he left on a free transfer despite having a season left on his contract.

Now, this article isn’t aimed to defend Mario Balotelli, as much as it’s to weed out the grounds of hypocrisy that fans ignore at their convenience. If Jamie Carragher believes he has the right to diss Mario, a player who is looking to get his footballing life on track, despite options to go to lesser and more lucrative leagues (China, yes) – then, the man is a bully. And if you are one of those mugs, who by the virtue of that man’s standing deem it to be legit – then you’re no less. Have a word.

You don’t kick a man when he’s down, Carra. You of all people ought to know.

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