12 November ~ Ian Plenderleith enjoyed extending his vocabulary in WSC 285
Everyone knows, as the American philosopher Elbert Hubbard once said, that "gossip is vice enjoyed vicariously". Bearing that in mind, the best way to approach a football site like Kickette, where "multi-millionaire football star shenanigans, exclusive WAG gossip and snarky fashion analysis are the reason we exist", is just to enjoy its self-knowing appreciation of semi-clad footballers' torsos, bitchery about the excessive make-up of footballers' wives and up-to-speed information on the latest bordello sightings. Because you really need to see those pics of Carlos Vela hanging loose with blonde transvestite ladies of the Mexican night.
If reading Kickette feels like a guilty pleasure, its all-female team of writers have no such qualms of conscience, flagging their site as "a happy place" where they promise to avoid "real" football news because it's available everywhere else (and how). They pledge instead to stick to "as much in-depth frivolity and superficial reports of hot players and their nice automobiles as is possible within our regular manicure schedules". They are also "often drunk", but "contrary to the freaky fantasies of a few Kickette commenters, we are not 55-year-old men/gnarled hags/aliens from the planet Zarg".
It's rare to find a football site where you constantly learn things you didn't already know, and where an appropriate tone of levity treats the whole sorry charade of top-flight football as something to be mocked, scorned or gawped at. Iker Casillas's girlfriend Sara Carbonero, a woman of previous "famewhoring tendencies", is condemned for failing to declare publicly her allegiance to Real Madrid in the interests of preserving her neutrality as a ‘journalist' (those are the site's sceptical quote marks). Not a true WAG, says Kickette. Kaká, meanwhile, is declared a dud, not a stud, for singing a self-penned, dopey Christian obeisance to his singer wife Caroline Celico, to feature on a future album. Such behaviour is simply not raunchy enough.
Regular features include "Product Shill", highlighting how hawk-happy pros reciprocate the monetary goodwill shown them by certain companies, and "Weekend Cheat Sheet", a round-up of tabloid tattle on the latest players to be caught in the away team's dressing room. Plus any other snippets and pictures that have accumulated, such as David Beckham losing his rag with an LA Galaxy fan who yelled at him: "Stop with the prostitutes!" And of course the comments section, where some people seem to be taking the site a little too seriously, and others happily let loose with their thoughts and feelings. "Their skin must be crying for air!" observes one user of a photograph featuring Alex Gerrard. Doesn't Alex remind us of Paris Hilton, asks another? "YES! Famous for nothing, talentless, wears too much make up, annoying!" pipes up a respondent.
This site exposed me to a whole new layer of football vocabulary by linking to a Sun article about a reformed "wagabee" who has now seen the error of her ways (she went out with a Bournemouth player for four months before finding out he had a long-term girlfriend. Oh, the humanity!). A wagabee is a wannabe WAG, an apparently vicious breed known to spike a rival's drink and elbow her off the best table in the search for a football player, any football player. A waglette is a wannabe WAG under 18, while a WAG hag is the same, but over the grand old age of 25. I'll leave you to work out slag WAG for yourselves.
None of this has anything to do with the game of football, you might think, and you're possibly right. But in a way, it's now everything to do with football. Kickette is the coverage that football deserves, now that clubs and leagues have become ever more paranoid in controlling the message and preventing their employees from saying anything of the slightest interest. Now that football is no longer sport, but just another cynical, avaricious sector of the entertainment business, stories about its wealthy, wayward lads and their abs, WAGS and commercial accoutrements are the best we can expect.
As we can no longer identify with the absurdly affluent, mentally detached individuals wallowing in their own publicity and bloated self-belief, the next best thing is to laugh at them, stare at them, or rejoice in their fallibility as they're caught in a puddle of their own piss, designer briefs round their ankles and a perma-tanned hooker running off with their cash and a sorry, sordid tale to flog to the grubby hacks and their crotch-rubbing public. (That's you and me, gog-eyed in front of the computer before texting a mate: "Fookn ell, did you hear about Crouchy?")
Meanwhile, the clampdown on players expressing themselves or saying anything controversial through social media continues. US international goalkeeper Hope Solo used Twitter recently to rage at a referee after her team, Atlanta Beat, lost to the Washington Freedom. "It's official, the refs are straight bad," she wrote. "It's clear the league wanted DC in play-offs. I have truly never seen anything like this. We play with ten, DC with 12. Players punched in the face. Free corners. I am done playing in a league where the game is no longer in control of the players."
Solo had already been in trouble for criticising a Boston Breakers' fan group for making what she called crude, racist and profane remarks the previous month. Her league not only fined her $2,500 (£1,500) for slating the ref, but suspended her for the first game of the 2011 season and ordered her to do eight hours of community service. It can only be a matter of time before all teams, leagues and football institutions place bans on their members from posting anything unofficial or unauthorised via social networking sites.
While 99 per cent of the content may be worthless and banal, the final portholes into football's weird parallel universe are being closed, blacked out or brought into line so that we will only ever see the pure white, wide-smiling version of non-events. Until, that is, the next wagabee goes public with her grainy cellphone pics and hardcore confessions.