Granit Xhaka of Arsenal FC fame has caused something of a storm in the football world. For those who have better things to do with their time and as such missed the events, what took place was as follows: Xhaka, who is also captain of Arsenal, has been having a bad run of form (some would say Arsenal career), as such he has been mercilessly booed by supporters as well as being sarcastically applauded when he is substituted.
During Arsenal’s encounter with West Ham United, Xhaka, on walking off after being substituted with the game tied at 2-2 and Arsenal in desperate need of a win, responded to heckling by throwing his shirt on the ground and telling the fans to ‘f@%K off’.
People have leapt to his defence, saying that no player should have to endure being booed by his own fans, that he buckled and that he has done nothing wrong. On the contrary, they say, it is the fans who were (and continue) to heckle and harangue him, who should feel ashamed and apologise.
Now, I am not one for defending Arsenal fans. As a Manchester United FC supporter, I quite enjoy the spectacle as it takes the spotlight away from our dumpster fire. But lost in this conversation is the fact that the conversations maintain a humanistic outlook while disregarding the system which has allowed this.
As a decent human I sympathise with Xhaka, but if we accept that we live in a capitalist world, then I must strongly disagree with the commentators and defend the supporters.
Xhaka, it is true, is human, and the abuse hurled at him has been vociferous and constant. It would make any person in that situation question their life decisions. But he is a footballer and that means he is an entertainer. His job is to entertain, it is to put on a show, provide a good performance, make people feel good, and occasionally win a match or two while doing it. If he fails to live up to his title of an entertainer —that is he bores people or pisses them off with non-performances — then yes, the paying consumer has every right to voice their dissatisfaction with the services provided.
People will and have said that ‘just because he earns mad money doesn’t mean he is immune from the pressures’. To that I say true, but two reasons that he is paid well are (1) it is assumed that as an individual in the top 1% of his profession that he can deal with the pressure. (2) more importantly, he is paid mad money so that if he is experiencing pressure he can get the best help, be it psychiatrist or a fancy vacation.
If he were a Queen’s Counsel (top 1%) losing case after case, clients would be cursing him. If he were to then turn around and tell the now-convicted client 1) ‘I was stressed’, or 2) ‘F@#k off’ he would be disbarred as well as ridiculed in the media. If he were a hedge fund manager who lost his clients’ money he would be cussed. If the response was along the lines of the above-mentioned he may very well no longer have a hedge fund to manage.
In an ideal world, the abusers would be wrong and would be forced to apologize. However, we don’t live in an ideal world where we respect the fact that people are under pressure. We live in a capitalist world. We are all commodities to be bought and sold, and if we don’t live up to the billing, then under this system and its rules the customer has every right to lift their frock tail, as my mother would say. If he feels so offended he can ask for a transfer or take a sabbatical to recharge his batteries, but as of right now he and only he is in the wrong and it is silly and missing the big picture to say that ‘the fans were unseemly’ or ‘think of the pressure he is under’.
Yes, what he faced was atrocious (think of any Reggae Boyz match during the early 2000s to understand the abuse), but he faces it because of the system he works in and, by extension, the system which we all live under. And true, much of the abuse online entered the realm of becoming a police matter, but it was just that — a police matter — and according to the rules we live under, your personal issues should have no bearing on your professional performance.
If we have this much of a problem with the abuse the paying customers are dishing out to an entertainer who has not lived up to the billing, then we need to change the system which says this behaviour is not only okay but expected.
As much as we dislike the abuse he faces, we kind of like the idea of maybe, just maybe, being the millionaire footballer or billionaire hedge fund manager and putting up with that abuse. In the end, what it boils down to is the plebs must be happy with whatever crap is given to them, even if it is the opposite of what was advertised and if they do think of raising their voices then they should expect to be shot down, even if they have paid.
LionAir v Boeing, Johnson&Johnson v Cancer survivors, random venue operator seeking money for a crap show by an artiste, fan v footballer, all these incidents pit the pleb against the elite and all fall under the same capitalist system.
The pleb or paying customer only find recompense in acting badly, either through legal action or by hurling abuse (most times both), and truth be told they would be mad to do otherwise as the system doesn’t operate that way.
In a system where a person waiting tables has to be polite and suck up to the customer who is cussing and screaming at them — because if he puts the customer in his place then he will be fired — the problem is not with the customer (who according to the system should be acting up if he feels he has been shorted), not with the waiter (who is acting as any normal human would), or even with the boss (who, by following the rules of the system, has to fire the waiter). Rather, the problem lies with and in the system that outlaws human emotions or thoughts of empathy and sympathy while providing odious profits to those who act in the most heartless and barbaric manner.
If we are not going to talk about the system which rewards actions such as this (after Xhaka’s rather human explanation, he has lost the captaincy and may well be let go or sold in January) and more importantly the abuse suffered on a daily basis by the people of this earth who have been forced to commoditize themselves, then the defenders of Xhaka need to shut up, sit down and let the fans hurl abuse and even a pig’s head if they want.
He the product has failed to live up to expectation. The rules say they must act as they are to get a response of their liking (note he is no longer capitan). Accept that the system is messed up and seek to change it or leave it alone. To do anything otherwise is accepting that you must suck up a broken deal and that doesn’t wash in this system.