It’s a testament to the changing nature of football support that a poll aiming to rank Real Madrid players in order of hotness should prompt more furore than formation, transfers and results. Not to everyone, mind you, and it would be wrong of me to paint you all with the same tanning mitt, but there’s a certain proportion of you… well.
You know what you’ve done.
I first became aware of the awesome power of the Madridista while working for Kickette. As a fresh face intern, a makeshift desk in the fashion closet of the home of the Finest Five was a dream come true, especially since the remit seemed absurdly straightforward. Find and post pictures of semi-naked footballers (mainly Sergio Ramos). Make witty observations upon same. Go home.
Yep. I can do that.
My god did I underestimate the job (while simultaneously overestimating the facilities). Of all the club factions, the Real Madrid aficionados were by far the most numerous, the most knowledgeable and most definitely the most demanding. I still recall withdrawing from the internet with flames emerging from my face when my editor pointed out to me that the heightened traffic on my post was not due to the quality of my writing but the fact I’d claimed Iker Casillas had kept six clean sheets in the league that season and not the correct seven. Honestly, people can be so rude.
It sounds horrific, but without that baptism of white and gold napalm, I wouldn’t be here now. That error (and the numerous others I made subsequent to it… sorry again, Colombia) made it perfectly plain to me that attention to detail and fact checking are the most important part of writing, and while I still make the odd mistake, the fear of Royal censure lives on.
I shouldn’t have been surprised then, when I posted the exit polls of a Hottest Real Madrid Players poll from tumblr on Twitter and my timeline blew up. The main point of controversy appeared to be the location of Cristiano Ronaldo, who, at the time, was languishing in fourteenth position.
Reader, even I was shocked.
Reaction poured in. I spent most of the afternoon sifting through claims that Cristiano is an automatic winner of ANY physical prowess poll by default because his skivvy game is head, shoulders and other torso based protrusions above anyone else’s in the locker room vs. claims that his liberal use of bronzer and product renders him redundant for gross and/or slippage reasons.
Thankfully, order was restored when I checked the poll results this morning and found that Cristiano had won the damn thing by a solid five percent on joint runners-up The Ramos™ and Marco Asensio. I’m assuming that as soon as word got round that he was lagging, the Madridista forces mobilised, knowing for sure that their notoriously emotional man would suffer an horrific emotional collapse upon learning he wasn’t the most loved. It’s admirable.
It’s not remotely relevant to success or failure on the football pitch of course, but what is these days? As Sari Hagen touched on recently on these very pages, the fundamental nature of football support has changed dramatically in the last ten years and is showing no sign of slowing up. TV has ensured matches are available to watch at any time of the day or night, injected so much cash that footballers wages have inflated to the point where they buy gold plated cars and furry shoes for fun while simultaneously allowing us to comment live as the action unfolds.
It’s not just fans taking advantage of this freedom and accessibility. Transfer Deadline Day has transmogrified from a few lines at the bottom of a sports report to a carnival of studio speculation, baffling stats and journalists stationed outside training grounds waiting for someone to insert sex toys into their ears while doing a piece to camera.
The nature and breadth of football fandom is utterly vast and there is room enough upon its untamed plains for home and away match attendance, shouting in pubs, jersey wearers, non- jersey wearers, dumb hats and polls assessing the relative physical merits of men whose job it is to be as buff as possible.
The moral of this story is, respect everyone’s fandom. And if you choose to ignore me and go in two footed on those Madridistas, get it right. If you don’t, the return tackle will put you into the medics office faster than you can say ‘Jack Wilshere injury crisis’.
You were warned.