So there I was minding my own business and not even thinking about football when who should pop up on the TV but David Ginola in a strange B-movie war film called The Last Drop. To be fair while he didn’t say much he did okay striding around in fatigues and looking a touch pissed-off (as well you might if you found yourself in the middle of an apocalyptic war). As a youth I remember believing in a whole community of journey-man ex-professional footballers becoming publicans. To be honest I don’t even know where that idea came from. Probably radio phone-ins or something equally ephemeral but it seems slightly comic now.
Leaving aside my land-lordly daydreaming, the traditional routes into coaching and management are well established for retired players. In recent times with the global boom in televised football and the popularity of the Premier League the slots for commentators and analysts have also blossomed. This is all to be expected but the first footballer that really did something that stuck in my mind after their playing days was Craig Johnston. Forgoing the chance to become a Hip-Hop superstar the co-author of the Anfield Rap went on to design and successfully sell the Predator football boot to Adidas. Not bad when you think about it.
Beavering away in the youth team while Johnston was running around on the pitch, Robbie Fowler would become first a Liverpool and then England star while quietly morphing into a property baron. How much of a Mr. Monopoly is Robbie? So much of one that the affectionate chant ‘We all live in a Robbie Fowler house’ would greet him in his playing days. It’s not the glam world of film but then Robbie doesn’t have David’s bone structure. That being said David can’t carry off gangster hard man like Vinnie Jones. The Jones boy hasn’t just dipped a toe or popped up playing weird versions of himself (looking at you Eric) in the movie world; he has gone full Hollywood.
After debuting with a performance that can only be described as ‘good’ in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Jones’ career path has been a bit up and down but the ups include an X-Men film and guest spots in Elementary and The Musketeers. The downs are too numerous to mention so allow me to step away from Vinnie’s filmography with the observation that youngsters who have heard of him probably know him more for this than for his performances on the field.
Interestingly enough, I’m not sure the very young know David Beckham was a footballer either. But they do know him. You don’t have to be a lover of low-budget action films or live in a rented home to be aware of Beckham. He exists in a world of celebrity that defies easy sub-categorisation. He is neither boundary pushing new media vlogger nor a figure from our common societal inheritance. His fame is worldwide and no one would bat an eyelid to see him investing in property or popping up in a film and he holds a ‘lifetime’ endorsement contract with Adidas. He is part of global popular culture’s background noise. He just is.
Meanwhile Mathieu Flamini is trying to save the world. Really. The ex-Arsenal, Crystal Palace and AC Milan player is a big figure in Levulinic Acid production; a compound that could replace petroleum derivatives in the manufacture of plastics and has the potential to be developed into biofuel. To put it another way, he may be the only thing between us and a blasted Mad Max-style (post-Brexit) future of lawless wastelands populated by motorised cannibal bandits. That’s Mathieu Flamini and you’re welcome planet Earth.