It’s a funny old game, and we were all afforded a good laugh or five on an otherwise disappointingly boring transfer deadline day when it was revealed that David De Gea’s transfer had fallen through. It was definitely funny: the Woodward memes were funny, the Perez gifs were funny, the eBay thing was funny. However, lying somewhere very deep under the abundant layers of reactionary internet simulacrum are the bones of this drawn-out episode: two football clubs and a human being who, despite our tendency to forget, has real human emotions.
It’s easy to laugh, and the reason football is so popular is that it evokes emotions across the whole spectrum, from despair to delight and everything in between. It not so much a sport anymore as an endless soap opera that we are all immutably invested in. However, does anyone actually sympathize with its characters? It's easy not to when they earn so much money, but is that their fault? Being rich does not automatically render you an emotionless human cyborg.
De Gea’s girlfriend Edurne lives in Madrid. Only in this line of work would a man receive such acidic backlash for trying to seize the chance of a promotion and career relocation to be able to do what the rest of us take for granted; live with his other half.
Edurne is not just a passenger here, either. After learning that United had agreed to sell De Gea on August 31, some United fans took to Twitter to throw some abuse her way. Nothing constructive of course – the linguistic finesse of a football fan who has become a little bit too invested in the carnival leaves a lot to be desired – just the predictable “sl*g”, “b*tch”, of course a host of “f**k you”, occasionally punctuated with a little extrapolation: “It was all your fault!” One imbecile even threw out this bile: “I hope Edurne gets cancer too the f***ing slut”.
But perhaps, in this outrageous soap opera, she deserved it. She did after all reportedly call Manchester “not very pretty”. Decide for yourself.
Anyway, back to dastardly David and his inconvenient emotions. This is a man who, in the space of 24 hours, was almost granted his wish to move to his own country, where he can speak his own native language, be closer to his family and friends, and would be able to properly cultivate his relationship by living with his girlfriend, but saw that chance dissipate into tabloid headlines and internet memes faster than it takes to sign a record 19 year old. The memes are hilarious, but perhaps each of us should at least try to remember that for David and Edurne, this is real life.
There is a grander point about our relationship with the game to be made here. To many, football is religion. We pray to strikers for a last minute goal, Super Sundays are the new Sabbath, and every day we read questionable stories in the gossip columns, our post-religion gospels. It is grandiose and means so much to so many, but at the heart of it all are real people. They deserve some sympathy as they try to wade through the thick bile of poisonous, entitled supporters who, at their worst, think cancer is a suitable punishment for wanting to live with your boyfriend.