Of Machines and Men

Claudio Villa

Contrary to the actions of most fans on the Internet, footballers are real people, and none of them are subservient to supporters.

So I ask you not to look for ghosts where none exist. There is no case whatsoever. I am suffering and I have the right to suffer alone. I am devastated, completely devastated, frustrated and with unimaginable sadness.

-Cristiano Ronaldo following his team's defeat at the 2010 World Cup.

I believe at this stage, most of us are aware that the Earth revolves around the Sun rather than Sun around the Earth. With this knowledge you wouldn't be shamed for thinking that people should realize by now that they are not the center of the Universe. But you would be wrong.

We, as fans, hold a very deadly belief that football players' lives revolve around our wants and complaints, and that we own them. We objectify them to the point that, a lot of the time, human decency is ignored in order for us to voice whatever hatred or concern that we have for them. As Mark Twain wrote in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, "Human beings can be awful cruel to one another." We abuse them verbally, sometimes throwing things at them, and even go so far as to create fake social media accounts that parody their children.

You can look at the mentions of various players on Twitter and see things like:

And we rationalize these horrible things by referencing how much they get paid, their lavish lifestyles and the multiple cars that they drive, as if somehow that takes away from them being thinking, sensitive creatures. When you write or yell to a player that you hope that they break their legs, as hard as it is to believe it, a person is reading and hearing that. A person that suffers, laughs, cries, has a family and goes to work, just like everyone else.

Some will say, "well, he shouldn't have been a footballer if he can't handle the abuse," as if those two things inherently go hand in hand. Nowhere in anyone's definition of a footballer does it say that they must stop feeling to play, or that they have to develop "thick skin". We, as fans, don't have the right to make those calls. In life and in football, you don't get to tell others how sensitive or receptive they should be, that's entirely up to them and in the end, it makes you look like a horrible person for trying to dictate their lives.

For people that advocate living life as your own person and as you see fit, we do our best to try to control the lives of others, specifically professional athletes. None of us are Henry Ford, and we shouldn't behave like it. We ruthlessly attack one of the greatest players to play the game, Ronaldo, because of his weight -- nicknaming him El Gordo -- only to find out he was suffering from hypothyroidism. We cry about players tiring too easily and for them to work harder and then are shocked when they collapse. Some, even more horrible, chant racist remarks at players, even those in their own national team but cheer when the same player scores for them.

The point of all of this is that these players, no matter how athletic, arrogant and "out of this world" they may seem, are people at the end of the day. They criticize themselves more than you would believe and do not need the added abuse when they leave the workplace. Just because the team can sell and trade them does not mean that they are your slaves.

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