At first glance it seems it could not possibly be true. A repeat viewing of the BBC’s Match of the Day programme, however, confirms the initial suspicion that Tottenham Hotspur’s Benoit Assou Ekotto took to the field against Wigan last month chewing gum.
Not only was he chewing gum, but the Cameroonian saw fit to blow bubbles with said piece of edible elastic, looking like an extra from Saved by the Bell or a 1990’s teenybopper music video.
Perhaps I’m opening myself to accusation of fuddy duddyness here, but surely gum chewing is a liberty too far for a professional footballer?
Firstly, it can’t serve any practical purpose. Minty fresh breath wasn’t of assistance to defending against crosses last time I played football. Granted, my presence on the field was of no assistance full-stop, but that’s beside the point.
If anything, I should imagine players who choose to neglect their personal hygiene in the build-up to a game are at an advantage. After all, who would you get tighter to at a corner, the guy chewing gum or the guy who smells like he could transmit a fungal infection?
Aside from that it’s just foolish to be chewing during the course of a football match. Let us not forget that football is primarily an exercise in athleticism, and, as any child with competent parents knows, you don’t run around with food in your mouth because it’s dangerous. Despite the recent suggestion of one Apprentice dim-wit that French parents may not love their kids, I’m pretty sure Assou-Ekotto, a French-born Cameroonian, will have benefited from the same sensible advice.
Premier League football clubs have expensive insurance policies which cover them against injuries to players. After all, these are million pound assets. Their value to the team is nil when they are injured and their resale value can rapidly depreciate if they spend long bouts on the sidelines.
What would happen if, say, Assou Ekotto were to choke fatally on the field of play? This may seem melodramatic but people do die from such seemingly benign causes, hence the warnings we receive as youngsters. The fact that Spurs allowed Assou-Ekotto to take to the field chewing gum would, I am almost certain, negate their right to make an insurance claim were such a tragedy to occur.
This may seem a little heartless, but Assou-Ekotto himself has publicly acknowledged that football, for him at least, is about business first and sentiment second. I’m surprised Tottenham aren’t taking the same approach.