John Laverty: Why big-time football is an anything-goes world of sex and sleaze
Ok, let’s get one thing clear right from the off — soccer is synonymous with sex. They go together like Rebecca and . . . sorry, my mistake, Posh and Becks. And it has been that way since balls were made with pig bladders.
I mean, do you really believe our own late, lamented George Best was the beautiful game’s first ‘serial shagger’? Do you believe Chelsea’s John Terry will be the last?
As a once-promising (but, ultimately, not delivering) young footballer, I’m fortunate enough to know what it’s like to play in big stadiums, and to enjoy the (mostly undeserved) adulation those efforts command. Largely from beer-bellied gougers, mind you — but there was that one time in Middlesbrough back in the Eighties . . .
Later, I spent a decade as this newspaper’s chief football correspondent.
I’ve had the pleasure of covering World Cup, Champions League and FA Cup finals. I’ve met and got to know some of the finest players on the planet. I’ve drunk wine with Bestie — which admittedly wasn’t unusual — and had tea and toast with great Dane Michael Laudrup, which was.
I’ve seen Paul McGrath too hammered to even climb out of the Republic of Ireland team bus at Lansdowne Road — and once helped a sozzled Roy Keane crawl into a taxi in Orlando.
I’ve also witnessed orgies, gang-bangs, ‘roastings’, live sex shows — and de facto happily-married, heterosexual men go off with transvestites and lady-boys. I recall one elderly ‘team official’ ordering not one, but four, eastern European prostitutes and retiring to his bedroom for what he hoped would be the duration of the trip.
On ‘Day Three’ of this unedifying marathon the young ladies — either bored, exhausted or simply grateful for the thousands our indefatigable hero had spent on them — took him out for a slap-up meal and looked after him, so to speak, for free on the final night.
I witnessed another who, having had his ageing body so completely ‘relaxed’ by incessant trips to dockside brothels, soiled himself in a hotel lobby.
I know of hitherto respectable Ukrainian chambermaids forced to have sex with footballers simply because the throwaway cash on offer was more than they’d normally earn in a year.
I’ve seen Premier League icons Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Kieron Dyer and Dwight Yorke ‘entertaining’ energetic young ladies; well, who hasn’t? After all, these idiots were daft enough to record their exploits on video.
Possibly ‘inspired’ by this, some members of Northern Ireland’s under-21 team did the same thing in a Co Antrim hotel three years ago — and unfortunately now it’s their naked, wobbling rear ends, rather than their cross-field passing, that lingers in the memory (and on the internet).
Also, five members of our wee country’s senior squad were arrested — and briefly incarcerated — in the Czech Republic back in 2001. This regrettable and highly-publicised incident followed a heated argument the so-called ‘Prague Five’ had over a bill — not in a classy uptown restaurant, but in a sleazy downtown lap-dancing club.
At this point, and before anyone labels me as a faux-pious hypocrite, let me add that I wasn’t dragged into any such encounters kicking and screaming. Indeed, having been in situ on countless occasions, I can understand why many young footballers do what they do, especially while ‘playing away.’
On international and European club trips, for the first couple of days all you see as a player is the inside of an airport, the inside of a hotel and the inside of a stadium or training ground. Outside, it could be Paris — or Pomeroy.
You spend most of your time cooped up in a bedroom reading, watching TV or playing cards; you train a couple of times, eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and hit the hay early.
These lads are, lest we forget, highly-tuned professional athletes. Their livelihoods depend as much on their fitness and discipline as their playing skills.
And, to be fair, instances of curfew-breaking before big games are rare; funnily enough, one of the last Norn Iron stars to be disciplined for such a lapse was ex-Manchester United and Norwich striker Philip Mulryne — who is now a trainee priest in Belfast.
No, the lewd behaviour comes after the match when certain gentlemen are unleashed from the shackles with adrenalin, testosterone, alcohol — and perhaps even some mind-altering substances — pumping through their honed, hormonal bodies. Some poor girl — or group of them — is going to pay for that rabid cocktail, one way or the other.
Several big-name players have been even accused of Mike Tyson-esque rape but, fortunately for them, those charges have never stuck.
Even amid the slew of sleaze, however, there’s a certain code, a kind of twisted honour, among these emotional thieves who steal young, impressionable ladies’ hearts.
What happens on tour stays on tour — that’s a given; a penalty kick, if you like.
Secondly: for infidelity, read entertainment. To these guys, it ain’t infidelity per se if it’s just a quick kerfuffle with some Monique, Svetlana or Conchita you don’t know and won’t clap eyes on again.
But the golden rule in football is that you don’t, to use that crude parlance, “s**t in your own nest.”
A fly-by-night Seville señorita is one thing, the mother of your best friend and international team-mate’s child — albeit no shrinking violet herself (allegedly) — is another altogether.
And this is where England captain John Terry has crossed the line. And why the contempt he’s attracting from fellow players, even those who are known to ‘throw it about a bit’ themselves, is genuine — if a tad ironic and disingenuous.
Not within your own postcode area, ‘JT’. And certainly not within the national team’s dressing room.
As the Chelsea central defender fights to hold onto the commercially lucrative England skipper’s armband, he’s being portrayed as a facsimile of shamed golf superstar Tiger Woods — another arrogant superstar who was cynically marketed and expensively spun as an iconic ‘role model’.
But Terry merely epitomises the public image of a modern-day pro; over-paid, over-sexed and grossly over-indulged.
He also adheres to the all-too-predictable template of a young lad from an unprivileged background who achieves his dream of becoming a famous footballer but, like a lottery winner, has his character fundamentally changed by sudden, outrageous wealth, sycophantic well-wishers and the tempting bedroom eyes of wannabe-but-will-never-be WAGs.
They’re not all like that, of course, but far too many are.
And 29-year-old Terry, whose current contract as Chelsea captain is worth a reported £170,000 a week, has enough of what sports fans call “eff-you money” to afford not to care what the great unwashed think.
It was rather telling last week that, when overturning Terry’s ill-fated attempt to prevent details of his affair with erstwhile pal Wayne Bridge’s ex-partner Vanessa Peroncell emerging, Mr Justice Tugendha pointed out that “the nub of the applicant’s complaint is to protect his reputation, in particular with sponsors”.
Presumably, then, the protection of his deeply humiliated wife Toni Poole, (29), and the couple’s three-year-old twins, Georgie John and Summer Rose, was secondary, if considered at all.
Ironically, the man from Barking in London is renowned as a world-class defender, who forged his reputation on the split-second timing of his interventions and his assured leadership in times of crisis.
The marketeers at Daddies who accepted this renowned philanderer as their ‘Dad of the Year’ are now getting a lot more sauce, so to speak, than they bargained for.
In commercial terms — and, crucially for him in this World Cup year— Terry’s no longer all gold. But these pampered multi-millionaires don’t live in the real world.
They live in a world where Wigan striker Marlon King savagely beats up an innocent young woman just because she had the temerity to resist his slobbering, drunken advances.
Where a player will stand with head bowed for the victims of the Haiti earthquake — and then blow £500,000 on a customised Bentley to park outside Harvey Nicks. Where bouncers are employed at Christmas parties, principally to keep the “ugly birds” out of the building.
And where young, pneumatic WAGs rattle around cavernous, vulgar, bling-filled countryside mansions wondering if their overlauded hubbies are scoring off the pitch as well as on it, and fretting about being traded in, like the Bentley, for a younger, sleeker model. Please do not envy these shallow, hollow people.
Incidentally, John Terry’s hero was another Londoner who died, virtually penniless but with sobering and admirable dignity, from cancer 17 years ago this very month.
His name was Bobby Moore — cultured central defender, legendary England captain, inspirational World Cup winner and one of the best and most revered footballers in history.