COMMENT – Power trips beyond the law

WITH THE money that is being paid to professional sportsmen these days, one would have thought that professional behaviour was part of the deal. This is in some instances not the case.

One, George Best might possibly be forgiven for his alcoholic digressions – the Beckham of his time was never financially compensated to the degree his talent merited; nor was he able to live with the Beatle-like adulation heaped upon him once his star was waning. Current accusations of sexually assaulting a schoolgirl less than 13 years old seemly do not to fit into the profile of a drunk and I’d be surprised if they stick.

Arsenal star, Robin van Persie, on the other hand, is 21, educated and already in possession of a small fortune he could never guzzle away. Strange, therefore, that the young footballer was arrested for rape. A wild night out in Rotterdam ended behind bars for the recently married starlet. Although false allegations seem to be in vogue at the moment, Dutch police did see fit to detain him for a further two weeks – something that bodes ill for the youngster.

He is not the only player who may have assumed that the mantle of invincibility can be enjoyed on the pitch and off it. A lengthy and inconclusive police inquiry into a long weekend spent in London by several Premiership footballers dogged the headlines under similar circumstances last year. In Spain, Frank Sinclair, Keith Gillespie and Paul Dickov ruined their Leicester careers by probably overstepping the mark with some German lady party-goers.

The list goes on… Patrick Kluivert was forced to pack his bags in Italy, back in 1997, and superstars in other sports are not immune either. Boris Becker was caught in a broom cupboard, his irresistible volley not being at fault; basketball great Kobe Bryant was accused of rape in 2002, again never proven, and legend O.J. Simpson even went so far as killing his ex-wife and her lover. The criminal court was unable to convict, but a subsequent civil case found him to be guilty.

Does sport corrupt? The truth is that today’s media attention, coupled with colossal salaries, gives not particularly intelligent or socially adjusted male individuals the status of Gods – a power only too readily abused.