In a session titled “Sports Between Field Conflict and Feeding Media Platforms”, Misk Media Forum tackled the relation between social media and sports, hosted by MBC TV’s Hind Boumchamar.
The speakers of the session were; Nawaf Al-Temyat, retired Saudi football player; Essam El Hadary, former Egyptian national football team goalkeeper; Ali El Garni, sports chief editor at Sky News Arabia in Morocco; and Yacoub Al-Saadi, president of Abu Dhabi Sports channels.
They discussed how social media can make football players role models, and the obstacles hindering the online portrayal of the football player in the Arab world.
First, as former player, El-Hadary said he can admit that media has been playing important role in sports field and its growing everyday making a difference in the sector. He cited two examples for media’s effect on people, one negative and one positive.
He said that criticism in sports media is the worse. Now many players are being repeatedly criticised for unclear reasons, the former football goal keeper said, explaining that media personnel can criticise players for not accepting their invitation to be guests on their shows. He added that criticism can also solely be based on personal issues or interests, urging that such conditions are not good for sports environment.
On the more positive spectrum, Al-Hadary said now players can become more popular easily, which can get them contract worldwide. Players’ news can be easily accessed through media, even their normal life moments can be shared with his fans, he stated.
Al-Hadary said that mostly importantly, players can now comment, send massages to fans, and correct any false information on their accounts.
During the session, some of the speakers provided ideas that would help football players become role models while other urged that they are not social guiders or leaders.
On that note, Al-Saadi said that media should first correct the concept that football players are social influencers, this not usually true, they can be successful in their work but not role models.
However, players should maintain a good image, he continued.
Speakers agreed that people relate emotions to everything. For instance, if there is a situation related to personal life of player is not acceptable, they would immediately change their minds towards him.
El-Grani said that he believes players should be more trained on how to appear on the media, how to give press statements, and how to comment on criticism. He added that they should learn to not offend fans in comments, never interfere in politics or any religious affairs, avoid sharing or retweeting biased content, as well as always speaking about the whole team not his work only.
He also asked how can people assume players to be role models when sporting clubs in Arab worlds do not encourage that, even heads of the clubs sometimes are not models. He also said that sometimes players’ behaviour on social media provokes fans and create a state of controversy.
While El-Saadi said sometimes images of players are impacted because of their agents, explaining that agents are not working for interest of the player, they are only looking for financial gain. The player’s image doesn’t matter them as in some cases trainers and agents make deals against the player’s interest for financial reasons.
He referred to Liverpool’s footballer Mohamed Salah for having best type of agent who is a legal advisor, focusing more on salah’s interests and image.
When the speakers were asked why they think fans always follow the premier league more than local sports, El-Saadi said it’s because the Arab world never showed efficiency in any league, and it still needs improvements.
He explained that in any administration, league members are mostly officials who never practised sports in their life, while players stay at home when they retire and do not get to share their expertise.
Finally, the speakers said that FIFA and worldwide football institutions are the best to get use of new digital techniques because they also develop themselves, and put people in their right places.