Saturday 16 December 2017

Perroncel affair shines spotlight on dark side of fame

Richard Sadlier

Richard Sadlier

A WAG answered her door one day. A reporter said he had proof she had slept with someone else and would print the story. She rubbished it and threatened to sue. The reporter returned a half hour later saying he would drop the first story if she agreed to say Frank Lampard made a pass at her. She dismissed this as well and shut the door. She didn't hear from him again.

While several players have gone to court attempting to prevent details of their private lives becoming public (though maybe the days of referring to them as private in any way are well past), Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo is now pursuing legal means to refute recent reports on Spanish television surrounding his social life.

The programme Salva-Me on the Telecinco channel alleged that Ronaldo threw a party in his house the night before last weekend's game with Barcelona, adding that the party resumed immediately after the game, despite the 2-0 defeat. Ronaldo denied the reports, and said in a statement that he has instructed his lawyers to "ensure those responsible are punished to the fullest extent legally provided". It is alleged there were several of his Real Madrid team-mates present on both nights. Clearly upset by it all, he claimed the whole story has been "intolerably depreciating to my dignity and my professionalism".

Though highly unlikely there was any shenanigans the night before the game, there were still critical words for players suspected of partying following such a disappointing result. Supporters are never impressed when stories emerge of players doing anything but going straight home following a defeat. From my experience, it has always been that way.

We always knew there were certain venues in London we could not go near if the result didn't go our way. The notion that our week's work had concluded just didn't register with fans. Defeat could not be followed by revelling, and on more than a few occasions, team-mates of mine were met by angry drunken Millwall fans hell-bent on confrontation of some kind.

The public response to John Terry's extra-marital affair this season underlines the ever-growing feeling among supporters that there is very little of a footballer's life which is deemed off limits. Actually, it showed just how much the media believe they are entitled to report also.

The girl at the centre of the story, Vanessa Perroncel, found every ounce of her life thrust into the public domain. She is the woman referred to in the opening paragraph. Newspapers covered everything -- her sexual history, pictures of her home and maps of how to find it, her parents' divorce, her father's suicide, her supposed pregnancy and abortion, and details of child-maintenance payments agreed with her son's father. Her refusal to speak publicly on the issue merely lead to accusations that she was paid to remain silent. At no point, did anyone suspect she merely remained quiet because she believed it was nobody else's business. For the first time, she revealed last week the full extent of her ordeal at the hands of the media, and didn't ask for a penny for doing so.

Given both his reaction and the enormity of the game, it would be surprising if the allegations against Ronaldo and his team-mates turn out to be true. Whether lauded for his obvious talents or criticised for his diving and petulance, he has never been known for acting off the field in any manner other than that expected of players who compete at his level. That he is unlikely to retain his World Player of the

Year award will dent his considerable ego, but the story highlights the level of attention top players have to contend with, and it will always be this way.

The reality though, and irrespective of whether they are true or merited, stories will continue to appear about the off-the-field lives of footballers at the highest level. Too many people are interested in reading them for it to be any other way. Whether that's cause enough for us to claim we've a right to know -- which in turn gives the media the justification of reporting it -- is a matter of personal opinion.

If they are untrue, Ronaldo is right to feel aggrieved about the reports of his partying, as such allegations are damaging to his credibility as a top professional. Whether in the form of a retraction, an apology or a payment, he may yet get the outcome he seeks through the courts.

Vanessa Perroncel didn't attempt to correct any of the lies about her, even when one paper gave the wrong account of her father's suicide. She has never sought to clear her name in public, as correcting certain falsehoods could only have been done by revealing details about her private life -- even if the private life she once had no longer exists.

Sunday Independent

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