Has Twitter struck again?
It is reported this morning that beleagured Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is to take action against player Ryan Babel for breaking the confidence of the dressing room by Tweeting about being dropped from the struggling team.
Twitter is the social networking system that allows users to send messages of up to 140 characters to their friends and “followers”. It has been taken up widely by sports figures, but not always with happy consequences.
At Liverpool, with Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Yossi Benayoun sidelined, Babel expected to be involved and made no attempt to hide his dismay, as he wrote on his Twitter page that he had “some disappointing news” and that “The boss left me out. No explanation”.
There had already been much speculation that the 23-year-old Dutch striker, a £11.5 million signing from Ajax who has failed to win a regular place in the team at Anfield, would be sold during the January transfer window. Babel’s Twitter transgression seems to make that almost certain.
Benitez tried to downplay the incident at his pre-match press conference on Friday. “When you have problems everyone has a different reaction,” Benitez said. “Everyone has a Twitter. It’s impossible to stop people talking. It’s not like in the past.”
Babel, though, remained truculent and turned to Twitter once again later in the day to vent his frustrations.
“What happened after a first good season?” he said.
“Scoring 10 goals, being young talent of the year, and then second and this season don’t play at all? One day, you will see what I’m capable of, will it be at LFC or somewhere else… I have faith.”
The Dutch international is the latest in a growing list of sports figures whose frankness in 140 characters has created uncomfortable consequences.
Sun Online’s Andrew Haigh, a SJA member, got a back-page splash in The Sun in the summer after he noticed that Darren Bent was complaining (an “F-word rant” in Sun speak) on Twitter about the slow progress in his transfer from Tottenham to Sunderland. Bent’s Twitter acount was soon shut down, his transfer sped through.
During the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong used Twitter to complain about his daily drug tests and to announce his plans for a new team in 2010.
Ryder Cup golfer Ian Poulter has nearly 360,000 followers to his rather pink page of Tweets about life on the golf tour – which included some off-colour pictures of a colleague in the toilet during a flight on a private jet which drew an apology and withdrawal.
In the summer, Phil Hughes, the Australian cricketer, somewhat like Babel, revealed on Twitter that he had been dropped from the team for the third Ashes Test match. Hughes had 1,200 followers when news of his Test demise was posted, but eight hours later, his following had tripled.
West Ham centre-back Danny Gabbidon had to apologise to his club’s fans after appearing to criticise them in a message posted on Twitter last month.
Probably the greatest Tweet storm in sport in Britain so far came in response to a radio review in The Observer last summer, when the followers of Test Match Special‘s Jonathan Agnew hounded columnist Will Buckley into making an instant apology.
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