Today’s footballers are the beneficiaries of inordinate salaries; they enjoy lavish lifestyles along with a life of fame.
They are worshiped by children; young men live their lives vicariously through these stars while the older members of society condemn the large wage packets of these elite athletes.
The emergence of Rupert Murdoch and Sky Sports changed the face of football in England. Money was pumped into the Premier League with footballers now commanding significantly higher wages than the legends of the past.
Most fans will not begrudge their idols an outrageous fortune for producing mesmerising football and creating many great memories. However, one has to wonder about the detrimental effect the fame and fortune is having on the psyche of players.
Increasingly over the last couple of years, we have seen a steady increase in the number of footballers overstepping the mark and crossing the wrong side of the law. They flaunt their cash with arrogance and are willing to show off their aggressive alter egos at the slightest hint of disrespect shown towards them.
Fortunately, by in large these incidents of violence tend to be a rare occurrences with the offenders learning from their mistakes and staying clear of the ever-glaring spotlight.
Marlon King is an exception.
Last week the former Watford striker was found guilty of sexually assaulting and punching a 20-year-old student in a nightclub in London. The victim described the impact of King’s punches like being, “hit in the face with a brick.”
The £35,000-a-week star was convicted of assault and sentenced to 18 months in jail. Within an hour, Wigan chairman Dave Whelan announced that the club had sacked its disgraced forward.
The victim, Emily Carr, called for King to be banned from football for life.
Everyone makes mistakes. The modern day footballer is put on a pedestal and it is inevitable that with the adulation these players receive their egos will be cultivated and caressed, leading to some making misguided choices in life outside of the football pitch.
King, however, has a list of convictions to his name. Thirteen to be precise.
These include drunk driving and other motor vehicle-related offenses, assault, dishonesty, and violence towards a female. Previous to his most recent court appearance, King was fined for spitting at a woman for “no apparent reason” in 2005.
In 2002, he served nine months jail time for receiving a stolen BMW Cabriolet.
Yesterday the Professional Footballer’s Association chief executive, Gordon Taylor, stated that the PFA would support King and he hopes to see the 29-year-old make a successful return to football.
But King does not deserve another chance in football.
How much longer will such thugs be tolerated in our game?
The player’s agent, Tony Finnegan, announced that King would pursue another Premier League club when he completes his sentence. In court, King’s defence lamented the loss of earning (£1 million) that will result from his time behind bars.
On the other hand, the victim has been left permanently disfigured.
Finnegan added: “I don’t want to name names but there are lots of players in this country who have fallen short of the law, done the crime, done the time, come out, and I’m sure if you’re sitting in a six-by-six you do have time to reflect on the change you make as a person in your life.”
Yet Mr Finnegan seems to have forgotten his client’s previous criminal history. King’s previous run-ins with the law show his behaviour to have been somewhat short of angelic.
Ms. Carr stated in an interview with the News of the World that King had “no place on the football pitch,” saying that she believed everyone deserved a second chance but King had already had 13.
Former Arsenal ace Alan Smith bemoaned the mind-boggling wages that King received despite, as Smith puts it, being of “average ability”.
One would like to think no football chairman would want a repeat criminal on his books, but undoubtedly, a club desperate for a striker will sign up the Jamaican international once he serves his time.
It is a shame that time and resources were wasted on man who let fame go to his head.