I pity Harry Kane’s PR advisers. When they saw him deified by the Daily Mail they must have thought: “Oh Christ, this is where the end begins. They’re building him up. How long will it be before they smash him back down?”
The Mail’s profile hailed Kane as “at last a footballer we can be proud of”. It gushed about his all round good blokeishness, his “unabashed patriotism” evidenced by his full-throated rendition of the national anthem, his marriage to his “childhood sweetheart” rather than a TV star or model.
Then, of course, there was the clincher: by contrast to many of his teammates he doesn’t have a single tattoo. Not a drop of ink sullies his pristine skin.
The contrast between the canonisation of Saint Harry and the vilification endured by fellow striker Raheem Sterling over his body art could hardly be more stark.
You may remember the latter was presented as the Satan to Hazza’s saint in a patented monstering by The Sun over his “sick” tattoo of an assault rifle.
It subsequently emerged that the design is an unfinished tribute to his late father, who was killed in shooting in Jamaica. But why let a fact like that get in the way of a good knocking story?
Those PR advisers I mentioned will know how easy it will be for Saint Harry to face the same thing.
All it will take is for him to park his fancy motor on a double yellow line, or to get caught speeding. Marital problems in the future? That’ll do it. Or how about an altercation outside a restaurant with an over enthusiastic fan?
Come to think of it, before Kane scored the two goals that delivered victory against Tunisia, he was getting a taste of what Sterling endured himself. He was criticised on social media for everything from the way he speaks to his claiming of a disputed goal, as strikers are wont to do.
That was a point picked up by Bleacher Report when it asked: “How do England players cope with a country that doesn’t support them?”.
I mean, for goodness sake – ink? How is a person’s body art relevant to anything? Why is it that part of the reason we can at last be proud of a footballer is because he doesn’t have any tats?
Here’s a list of people who, as far as I know, have similarly never been under the needle: Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Kim Jong-un, Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin, and most of the bankers that crashed the economy in 2008.
I could add to that bunch of rogues’ gallery of horrible people from history, but you get the point.
By contrast, one of my favourite people, Paul Guest, himself a sporting international having represented Team GB in wheelchair basketball at the Invictus Games, not only has tattoos all over his arms and legs like many of England’s players, he has them all over his face too.
Guest lost the use of his legs while serving in the military, and part of the reason for his impressive facial adornment is that his kids were getting grief at school because he uses a wheelchair. I’m happy to report they shut up after the tattooist’s work was done.
If Kane is a hero, as he is being portrayed, what does that make Guest?
If the striker is indeed the hard-working team first guy as has also been suggested, I imagine the jibes about the artwork on the bodies of those who supply him with the balls he needs to get his goals, whether they’re subtle or blatant, will have bugged him as much as it bugs me.
Look, I have no problem with multimillionaire players taking flak when they genuinely behave badly, as they sadly often do. Those that get behind the wheel while boozed up, treat waiting staff like dirt, or abuse their partners, hell, let ‘em have it.
I’ll happily join in if they underperform on the pitch, as they have for so many years, during which fans have had to put up a depressing series of tepid and lifeless displays culminating in their exit from the last Euros at the hands of Iceland. That goes with the job in any footballing nation, and so it should.
But all this extra crap? Well, not for the first time, we English are portraying ourselves in a pretty poor light. Gary Lineker described what’s been going on as “weird, unpatriotic and sad” and he has a point.