In almost every other profession, workers strive to do whatever necessary to make as much money as possible. So why when footballers chase the money, they have to lie about it?
By Henry Tydeman – @HenryTydeman
West Bromwich Albion turned down another Queen’s Park Rangers bid for their striker, Peter Odemwingie, this week, and everyone, it seems, has their own opinion on the Nigerian’s proposed move to London.
Many football fans find this sort of transfer particularly frustrating, as it is clear that Odemwingie is itching for a move primarily because Tony Fernandes will undoubtedly pay him significantly more at Loftus Road than the centre forward currently earns.
It has angered many supporters who believe that the West Brom man appears to care a lot less about what he can achieve with his team than the state of his bank balance, as QPR, who can (at the moment) afford to pay Odemwingie more than West Brom would like to, sit bottom of the table, whilst Steve Clarke’s men are level on points with Liverpool in 8th place.
On the surface of it, Odemwingie’s desire to move does seem to have been fuelled by selfish, mercenary motives. When any player moves to a club clearly for financial reasons alone, the move seems to have a real lack of class to it; to use arguably the most extreme example, many were put off by Samuel Eto’o’s move to the Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala in 2011, who reportedly pay the Cameroonian around £18m a year.
Fans are also riled when players involved in such transfers try to dress their move up as being one made for more noble causes. Odemwingie has said that he wants to move to QPR to experience a “new challenge” and “a new opportunity.” At no point has he mentioned what will be (if he does move to Loftus Road), his significantly higher wages, because, in theory, it is such a terrible thing for a player to seek a move for such egotistical reasons.
Because football fans worship players, and idolise them to the point where they often reach hero status, supporters often lose sight of the fact that footballers play football for a living. Playing the game is a job for them. Just like how working in a bank, or down a mine, are jobs that other people do.
In professions like these, no one would bat an eyelid at the thought of one seeking promotions, or moves in order for them to increase their salary. It is, after all, the done thing to strive to gain as much financially as one can from their job, is it not?
Is it really that bad that Odemwingie wants to move down south? He has a wife and has recently had a baby boy. Should it not be acceptable for him to try to bring in as much money as he possibly can to support his new family? It would be if Odemwingie were in another occupation, but in football, fans tend to dislike players who approach their career in this way.
It has become so totally intolerable that, on the whole, players like Odemwingie and Didier Drogba, who moved to Shanghai Shenhua in China last summer, feel obliged to lie about their reasons for moving; Drogba even went as far as saying that his decision had nothing to do with money.
Would it not be so much better if players were honest, and fans respected them for their honesty, as opposed to deriding them for telling the truth? Related to this is the interesting case of Tottenham full-back Benoît Assou-Ekotto, whose candidness has proven to be very much the exception to the rule amongst football players.
In 2010 Assou-Ekotto said in an interview that, “I am honest all of the time, although the truth is not always good to say”, intelligently recognising that fans do not always want to hear the truth from their heroes. He went on to unashamedly declare, “I play for the money”.
Many within the media and various fan groups were horrified at the defender’s revelations at the time, and the general reaction, on the whole, was a particularly negative one.
Undoubtedly then, it is the fact that brutal honesty is met with such shock and disgust from the football public, that discourages players from being completely truthful.
Maybe it is time to accept that football isn’t the gallant collection of altruistic individuals who are motivated solely by glory, that some think it is.
After all, honesty really does tend to be the best policy.