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Football
The days when tweets came from birds
Social networking changes the relationship between footballers and the media as players hit 'the net' off the pitch.
Last Modified: 21 Aug 2011 15:19
Let's be friends: Fabregas is one of many players who have been busy on Facebook and Twitter [GALLO/GETTY]

Thanks to the wonders of online social networking, Spain international midfielder Cesc Fabregas 'friended' me last week around the time of his multi-million pound move to Barcelona from Arsenal.
 
But becoming Facebook pal #4064 of the man listed as Francesc Fabregas Soler on his profile is no guarantee of leisurely chats together over Crema Catalana and Café Cortado in the city's Las Ramblas district.
 
The reality is that we'll never meet unless our professional paths somehow cross. The closest may have been Arsenal's Asian tour last month, but Fabregas stayed behind in the UK ahead of his impending transfer.
 
Internet technology and the modern era of sport are sprouting side-by-side.

It means that conventional means of newsgathering, including media conferences and face-to-face interviews, are becoming increasingly redundant.
 
How else to explain that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was still denying that Fabregas was leaving the club at the same time that his new Barcelona teammates were communicating via Twitter that the midfielder was in the vicinity of the Nou Camp Stadium?
 
The 'tweets' told the real story while Le Professeur was towing the company line in an apparent attempt to stack the final negotiations in favour of the north London club at the eleventh hour.
 
Twitter was launched only five years ago and has already become a useful tool in tracking the biggest stars of the beautiful game.

Unpolished pros

And the irony is that some of the least polished professional players have taken to the micro-blogging service that allows posts of up to 140 characters.
 
It got one-cap England midfielder Joey Barton in trouble when, after tweeting about the apparent lack of ambition from his club, he was granted an immediate transfer by Newcastle and effectively asked to leave.
 

Barton: He went thattaway, officer [GALLO/GETTY]

But after surviving that brouhaha and playing in the Magpies' season-opener against Arsenal, Barton, got himself in more hot water by commenting on his role in the sending-off of Gunners' new boy, Gervinho.

The 28-year-old accused the Ivory Coast international of "cheating" by diving in the box while admitting to his 380,000 followers that he went to ground easily after being slapped in the face by the striker.
 
That was followed by a heated exchange with Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshire who accused Barton of being "unprofessional" and "in the wrong".

An ankle injury kept the youngster out of last weekend’s match at St James' Park, but in the virtual world, the two rivals had a memorable tussle in the middle of the park.
 
So often players and coaches speak in clichés and generalisations in official interviews, often dancing around the truth.

The upside of Twitter and Facebook is that we at least have the chance of hearing what they really mean, albeit with questionable grammar.
 
That's unless someone like a fan puts up a fake profile and pretends to be their idol.

'Bitterness and anger'

Arsenal's unsettled midfielder Samir Nasri distanced himself this week from comments on what appeared to be his personal Facebook page, saying that he would "certainly leave very soon" with "bitterness and anger in my heart."
 
So how did Nasri set the record straight? On his Twitter account, of course!
 
In the old days of the English game, a tweet was something than Stanley Matthews may have heard from the trees at Stoke-on-Trent as he walked to games at the Victoria Ground.

When Bolton's Nat Lofthouse was in his prime, a facebook may have been a fan's compilation of signed player picture cards in a small photo album. 'The net' used to be something that Gordon Banks was protecting in more than 500 league appearances until 1972.
 
Renowned disciplinarian Sir Alex Ferguson has stopped short of issuing a Twitter ban on his Manchester United squad, but has ordered them not to tweet about specific club matters.
 
Forbidding the outlet might be seen as an infringement on a player's freedom of speech.

Already, Barton, who served 77 days in prison for assault in 2007, has cleverly used Twitter to paint himself as a street philosopher in pursuit of truth.
 
He even tweeted to share how he helped police capture an alleged burglar who was breaking into a neighbour's house in the early hours of last Sunday in Jesmond, Newcastle.

CCTV footage from Barton's home helped identify a 25-year-old man.
 
By the way, Fabregas has yet to update his personal info on his Facebook page.

He still lists his residence as London and his profession as "Midfielder at Arsenal FC".
 
And our virtual 'social circle' is growing. 'Fab' and I already have two mutual Facebook friends – neither of whom I believe I've met, either.

But in our parallel universe, I'm sure we'll all get together real soon, probably meeting up with Joey Barton and Jack Wishere in a cosy chat-room.

* Jason Dasey (www.jasondasey.com) is an Asia-based international sports broadcaster and host/executive producer of Kopi-O, a new football chat show for Singapore. Twitter: @JasonDasey.

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