Some footballers are daft. This may, or may not, come as a shock to you but there you have it.
Even if it may have been the stereotype in the past, the fact is footballers present as wide a spectrum of personalties and IQs as the man walking down your high street this afternoon.
Meaning, yes, some footballers are even more dense than you can ever imagine and that’s why I can fully believe Crystal Palace’s Wayne Hennessey’s defence that he didn’t know what Nazis actually were.
At the time of the initial controversy, I did find it incredulous that something that so obviously looking like Basil Fawlty insulting his German guests could be denied but after a thinking about it more I asked myself if it was possible. Could a 32-year-old man be unaware of the atrocities committed by Adolf Hitler? In my experience, I’d have to say yes.
Scoff if you will but maybe you haven’t come across the players that I have. OK, so I still don’t buy that Wayne doesn’t know who Hitler is and was unaware that by making that gesture (which of course he wasn’t) towards his German teammate he would cause great offence but even if if he did, in his mind it will have been a harmless attempt at “banter”.
Perhaps there was a time when that would have been acceptable but in the current landscape where anti-Semitism and fascism is rife and the far right movement is on march once again, it was an ill-thought out move. Or would have been if that’s what he meant. Which of course he didn’t.
So back to my original point. Is it entirely plausible that he didn’t know exactly what Nazis were and why they were so bad? I think it is. Here’s another question; is it plausible that he knows who Hitler was, knew that it was in some way offensive to his German teammate but was ignorant to the fact that others may be deeply offended by what he did? I also think this too.
Why do I think this? Well it’s because I’ve played with people who I’d believe if they said something like this. I’ve always defended footballers and their intelligence because it was unfair in most cases but when you put so much focus on becoming a professional athlete, much of the rest of your education can just become something you endure. History lessons and science projects just make up the blurred edges of your dream.
Of course education is important and as proven by the Karolinska institute here in Sweden, whilst facts, figures and historical dates may not be a footballer’s strength, their cognitive intelligence is far greater than the average person in the street. Real world intelligence such as decision making, creativity, cognitive flexibility, working memory and processing speed are the forte of the footballer, rather than the memory tests we sit at the end of each school term.
It sounds like I’m defending everyone now so let me tell you why I don’t entirely disbelieve Wayne Hennessey.
Whilst it would be unfair for me to name names, some examples stand out. In this case, it just so happens to be the same person just so you get the gist of their consistency in their density.
This particular player was having trouble with acne so took it upon themselves to sit in front of an infra-red lamp in the physio for half an hour WITH THEIR EYES WIDE OPEN. The result? Both of their corneas severely burnt and rushed to A&E where they would told there is a possibility of permenant blindness in both eyes.
Luckily for him, he made a full recovery. Unfortunately, even though it cured his skin condition, it did nothing to rid him of his stupidity as a week later he was sent on a shopping errand to buy a packet of Hamlet cigars for the manager and came back with TWO HAM OMELETTES.
And people say that Wayne Hennessey didn’t know what Nazis were? I don’t believe him either, but I can see why the FA would.