Rio merking someone's shutter speed (Photo via)
The best thing about Rio Ferdinand calling someone’s mum a sket on Twitter – and there are so many layers to Rio Ferdinand calling someone’s mum a sket on Twitter, a blooming onion of self-merk – is that in 90 percent of photos of Rio Ferdinand he is shouting. At a left back, normally, sometimes at a striker, occasionally at the crowd while pumping his fist: Rio Ferdinand seems to spend a lot of his time on blast. But now all I can think of when I see a photo of Rio at maximum volume is a him saying "sket" in a high, short ding. Sket. Sket! Sket.
A sket, in case you’ve never been in a playground, is a slang term roughly translating to "whore". As a result of his tweet, Rio – former England captain, leader of men, 35-year-old Queens Park Rangers centre-back, Anton Ferdinand’s brother – has this week been charged with misconduct by the FA. It’s not the first time something like this has happened – in August 2012, he was fined £45,000 for endorsing a Twiter user’s description of Ashley Cole as a "choc ice". But while that was undeniably bad and thoughtless, it’s still fun to imagine Rio, head bowed and mumbling, carefully explaining to the FA board what a “sket” is.
On this occasion, the latest occasion, it went a little something like this: On transfer deadline day, a fan tweeted at the new QPR defender to say “Maybe QPR will sign a good CB they need one” to which Rio responded, “get ya mum in, plays the field well son! #sket” followed by the monkey-covering-his-eyes emoji. It was a classic merk. Merktastic. Merkageddon.
To be fair, that’s a pretty solid comeback. And there’s a lot that could feasibly be said about this, mainly that it would be really excellent if we could bring back schoolyard insults like "sket" again, you utter jebpiece. There’s a whole argument, too, about whether we should be holding up footballers as role models if they’re just going to use those privileges to call all our mums skets as they laugh their way through yet another Ayia Napan threesome. But I reckon the main concern is that FA sanctions and £45,000 fines will stop footballers from talking back on Twitter, knocking yet more life out of an increasingly corporate game.
Time was, the most we’d hear a footballer say would be a few “yeah we give it a hundred percent”s on Match of the Day and then a tell-all biography detailing all the times they were forced to rub Deep Heat into Terry Fenwick’s jockstrap. Now, it’s different: Joey Barton is the Descartes of our time; Jose Enrique’s off making Hitler whoopsies; and even Paul Scholes won’t shut up. Like: Paul Scholes did the ice bucket challenge. Paul Scholes has opinions, now. Paul Scholes wants to be our mate. “Eyup!” Paul Scholes is saying. He’s outside your door with a blue bag full of tins and a pizza. “Drove down from Oldham in me pyjamas. Shall we watch Sky Sports together and talk about who’s going to be the next me?” No, Paul Scholes. “I really reckon it could be Jack Wilshere, but Ross Barkley’s good, too.” Not now, Paul Scholes. Go away.
Point being, this new level of player interaction is a gift for fans, for two reasons: one, it just confirms all those suspicions that Michael Owen – a man who didn’t even enjoy Cool Runnings, remember, therefore a man without a human soul – is exactly as robotically, clinically boring as you might expect; and secondly, it gives the world a platform from which to shout at Ashley Young when he trips over his own legs again and asks for a penalty. There is something soothing, something therapeutic, about calling Ashley Young a twat on Twitter. A full back massage in 140 characters.
Essentially, the FA is fining Rio Ferdinand for getting wound up by an especially half-arsed Twitter troll. ManCunian56 didn’t even especially go after Rio – he just intimated that QPR, with their centre-back pairing of 35-year-old Rio and still-green Steven Caulker, might benefit from another defensive option other than Richard Dunne. And seeing as QPR now sit bottom of the table having conceded 15 goals in 7 matches: yeah, they pretty much do.
But what this proves more than anything, I suppose, is that we, the people, have the power to make millionaires slightly angry. Rio bringing out the big guns and calling someone’s mum a sket won’t have been the result of a one-off tweet – a glance at his @replies in the last few hours shows he’s been called a "bell", an "arse-licker" and an "Evening Standard columnist". He’s also been told his hats are shit, his book is shit and that he himself is a prick. He’s also been called a "#knob". Doesn’t matter how many Baby Bentleys and indoor heated swimming pools you’ve got, how many England caps or Premier League titles under your belt: that ambient level of abuse is going to get to you one day, and it’s going to come to a head with the suggestion in the most basic way possible: the mum joke.
Rio Ferdinand’s always been sort of distantly amusing – the drugs test chaos, the World Cup Wind Ups, the starring role in the school performance of Bugsy Malone – but his Twitter bants make him more immediately, accessibly so. Less "laughing about that time he kicked a football directly into a lady’s face and had to send her flowers afterwards"; more enjoying Rio for being Rio. Twiter makes it feel like you are actually sat in a living room with him, returning to the sofa having just ushered away that bellpiece Scholes as you press A to recommence your spliffy late-night FIFA session. And that’s a level of interaction that should be cherished in a game increasingly dominated by glossy Pepsi ads and Jorge Mendes.
The FA released a statement about #sketgate on their website, reading: “It is alleged the comment posted on his Twitter account was abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper. It is further alleged that this breach is aggravated pursuant to FA Rule E3(2) as it included a reference to gender.”
That’s boring. And so is every corporate-sponsored tweet footballers send out with a picture of them sat in a dimly-lit room looking at a new pair of Nikes. But Mario Balotelli laughing at Manchester United’s demise to Leicester? Good. Sol Campbell going off on one about mansion tax? Hilariously entitled, but also good. And Rio Ferdinand going in and calling someone’s mum a sket? Amazing.
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