Is social media filling the void of player/fan engagement in football?
West Ham’s dramatic, last-minute equaliser in their 3-3 draw with Tottenham on Sunday was a perfect social media moment. It had everything: a team 3-0 down and written off; an opposition with something of a reputation for being, er, unreliable; and an absolute wonder-strike worthy of the full squad bundle it received.
Among the brilliant moments shared across Twitter, we saw Jamie Carragher providing his best Gary Neville “goalgasm” impression, and Tottenham fans setting themselves up for a fall. But what we at Fifty noticed more than anything was West Ham players’ exceptional post-match engagement with their fans.
Declan Rice, the Hammers’ captain for the day, was in fine form. After providing a gem of a post-match interview, he took to Twitter to wade in on another Spurs fan that had fallen foul to an astonishingly misjudged take.
Michail Antonio, another West Ham player known for his fun personality, went even further. Instead of simply sharing the goal, he produced an Ali G-inspired meme that delighted West Ham fans and, well, everyone except Tottenham fans really.
Two more players – Arthur Masuaku and Mark Noble – also provided posts that noticeably departed from the all-too-traditional format that footballers’ post-match Tweets take. Avoiding platitudes such as “the lads gave everything” or “on to the next game”, this group of players brought personality and individuality to their posts that no doubt provoked a stronger response than usual.
A moment like this would, in ordinary circumstances, have produced a swell of West Ham fans on the pitch celebrating with the players – and likely a host of viral videos of celebrations in the stands too. As fans continue to be prevented from attending matches in person, they and the players they follow must find other ways of connecting and enjoying these moments.
What’s clear is that, at least in this case, footballers and fans are finding a way – via social media – of maintaining those connections. And that’s a really encouraging sign as we navigate this frustrating period for sport.