Ian Plenderleith enters the egocentric world of footballers' websites to discover new blends of philosophy, art criticism and Frank Leboeuf's love of frocks
The world is not a big enough place to accommodate the egos of most professional footballers, so it is not surprising that many of them have embraced the internet as a new forum to promote themselves and their brilliant achievements. It would be wrong to avoid such sites simply on the grounds that pros have little to tell us beyond how misunderstood they are, because in many cases their homepages are not just a vehicle for self-promotion, but unintentional platforms for protracted self-prattery.
The official homepage of Lothar Matthäus reflects the German veteran’s chronic Paul McCartney syndrome – instead of letting his achievements speak for him, he has to open his mouth and tell everyone several times over how fantastic he is and how often he has proven his detractors wrong. Even better is his bitching about his co-players at Euro 2000. “Ziege’s performance during the tournament was marred by an orgy of passes not reaching team-mates,” he rails, and is no less sparing of former team-mates Scholl, Hamann and Kahn.
Such sites enter a new realm when players unwisely switch from football to more weighty matters, such as philosophy. Asked what he dreams about, Matthäus intones: “I never dream. If you dream, you get punished.” So be warned. You’ll probably go blind too.
No such depths at the homepage of the above-mentioned Oliver Kahn. The Bayern goalie tells us he’s fond of golf and it’s a “nice diversion”. But he doesn’t have a lot of time for it as he’s busy playing the stock market where he is following “a very conservative and long-term oriented strategy”.
His comments on football are no more riveting (especially as he conveniently skips the whole of Euro 2000) and as the site is in German you may want to avoid it completely except for the “Fun” page. Here you can use your mouse to distort Ollie’s face into different shapes. OK, not exactly fun, but weirdly gratifying if you imagine it as a cyber-equivalent of a voodoo doll, and that the obstreperous shot-stopper is sitting at home with his worried family, gurning at them across the kitchen table.
Some players prefer not to dwell too much on football at all. For instance, Marcel Desailly gives only selected Chelsea match reports, with the memory of the 2-0 defeat at St Gallen no doubt forgotten due to his busy schedule. Or perhaps Marcel took the opportunity to put in some chateau-hopping so that he could come back and tell us: “Sancerre also deserves more consideration. Not too dry, but not too fruity, this wine fits with any meal.”
Or, since he was in Switzerland, perhaps he stayed on to spend some hard-earned cash indulging his “passion for rare watches”. This is an activity, he tells us, which “makes me deviate from the ‘average man’s’ tastes”, but sadly he doesn’t elaborate.
His unloved team-mate Frank Leboeuf, on the other hand, tells us his main hobby is getting dressed. “One can take great pleasure from getting dressed for the evening,” he purrs. “I love... to see people dressed up for going out. [In London] the women have magnificent dresses.”
Emmanuel Petit feels the need to explain to the world his love of musics (sic) and literature, and retells for our benefit the plot of American Psycho. “Twenty-six-year-old Patrick Bateman... hangs out in showy places, snorts cocaine and acts recklessly,” he says, in a world “where money, bribery and violence rule”. Surely not a coded account of his time at Highbury?
Reading on for more clues you will find Manu has been “fascinated with leather for a very long time...” At which point you may well want to make your excuses and log out.
From WSC 166 December 2000. What was happening this month