Arsenal's men''s footballers have come under criticism from fans and celebrities alike after a video was shared on the club's social media account showing their players signing a young mascot's club shirt without acknowledging her. The video, captioned 'Making Memories with our Mascot', quickly went viral and led to widespread debate about the gap between footballers and fans.
That little girl looking up in awe at her heroes and not one of them had the courtesy to acknowledge her in any way whatsoever. This is a disgusting clip. A sad indictment of how football has gone. https://t.co/NRZ1pheP0s
— Rory Jennings 🍊🦩 (@Chelsearory) April 17, 2023
The video, which was posted before Arsenal's Premier League match against West Ham United, showed a young fan 8-year old fan named Olivia, waiting outside the dressing room with a home shirt for the players to sign. However, despite her obvious excitement, none of the Arsenal stars stopped for a chat or even looked in her direction, which sparked outrage among fans and celebrities.
TV presenter Nick Knowles took to social media to express his disappointment, saying, "Why doesn't a single one of them actually say hello or even acknowledge the mascot? Are they all so self-obsessed that not a single one of them says hello or even looks at her?" Arsenal fan and media personality Piers Morgan also chimed in, urging the players to acknowledge the young fan, saying, "Come on guys, at least one of you say hello to her?!!"
Why doesn’t a single one of them actually say hello or even acknowledge the mascot? Are they all so self obsessed that not a single one of them says hello or even looks at her? https://t.co/cN7NA88n7B
— Nick Knowles (@MrNickKnowles) April 17, 2023
Come on guys, at least one of you say hello to her?!! https://t.co/Ri3KH5Yd76
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) April 18, 2023
It's difficult to understand the context of this whole interaction without seeing the full picture. Athletes are often in their own bubble pre-event. There are also images and videos of the players high-fiving mascots as they walked out the tunnel for the match. That said, the incident does highlight the growing disconnect between footballers and fans, with many fans expressing their frustration at what they see as 'entitled' and 'rude' behavior from the players. However, there were also voices of support for the players, with some pointing out that the video may not have captured the full extent of Olivia's matchday experience as a mascot, which could have included interactions with the players on the pitch and during warm-ups.
TalkSPORT Breakfast host Laura Woods, who is also an Arsenal fan, shared her perspective on the issue, saying, "I think there's a lot of things we don't see, but that's not excusing that video because I watched it a couple of times over and in my head thought 'oh wait was it cut off afterwards, maybe they did [acknowledge her]' and I went back and watched it and they didn't." Woods also acknowledged that the video reflected a wider issue in football and among footballers in general, where the gap between players and fans has become increasingly pronounced.
“What does it take just to go ‘hi’?”
“I understand you’re in a pre-match routine, but just a little interaction goes a long way.”
🔴 Laura Woods reacts to a clip of #AFC players appearing to ignore a young mascot. pic.twitter.com/MlZXTJ5UN5
— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) April 18, 2023
Fellow TalkSPORT Breakfast host Ally McCoist echoed Woods' sentiments, describing the incident as "shocking" and emphasizing the growing gap between footballers and fans. The incident serves as a reminder of the importance of acknowledging and appreciating fans, especially young mascots who often look up to footballers as their heroes.
The father of the Arsenal mascot defended the club's players on Twitter and was full of praise of the experience. He said on social media: "My daughter had a lovely time as Mascot for @Arsenal. There was only a small window to meet the players and she enjoyed it very much. Odegaard is her favourite player so to hold his hand onto the pitch was very special."
My daughter had a lovely time as Mascot for @Arsenal. There was only a small window to meet the players and she enjoyed it very much. Odegaard is her favourite player so to hold his hand onto the pitch was very special. pic.twitter.com/SXNTMK4Ab9
— JMurray (@muzzygoona) April 18, 2023
It does pose an interesting question. Would you see similar interaction in the women's game?
Women's football and women's sport in general has often been praised for its close connection with fans. Often sportswomen go that extra mile to interact with fans, sign autographs, and be approachable role models. The women's game is often perceived as more grounded and familiy friendly. In stark contrast, particularly at the highest level in football, fans are becoming more and more disgruntled at the disconnect between the men's footballers and the paying supporters. The increasing commercialisation and money into men's football has lead to the game losing it's fundamental roots and values at times.
As football continues to evolve and grow as a global phenomenon and more money piles into the women's game - it is essential that the core values remain in place.