Andy Cole Column: Sometimes a casual text can be as dangerous as the Vancouver downhill

Fired Up! Most people can text or flirt or do pretty much whatever they want in their private life

Snowboarding, skiing, motorbikes, casual texting, impromptu nights out and all manner of other activities that "ordinary" people do without thinking have one thing in common for a professional footballer: they're out of bounds unless you want to risk getting yourself into serious trouble.

It's a pertinent subject during a week in which the Winter Olympics are making headlines for safety reasons on the back pages, while some high-profile public figures (including Ashley Cole) have been filling tabloid front pages because of messages and pictures they did (or didn't) send by phone.

When I say "ordinary" activities can lead to trouble for a footballer, I mean serious trouble. In an extreme case, that means getting so badly injured in an accident while engaged in a "dangerous" activity that your life is threatened and your career is effectively finished, and you're potentially left without a financial safety net because you've broken a condition of your contract by doing something perceived as "dangerous".

I was a Blackburn Rovers player a few years ago when one of my team-mates, Matt Jansen, went on a break to Italy with his girlfriend (now his wife) and they were involved in a serious road accident while riding a scooter. Matt was in a coma for days with head injuries, and in hospital for ages. He did eventually play again but his career as a top player effectively ended with his accident. He was never the same again.

I use that as an extreme example, but players are forbidden, contractually, from "dangers" such as motorbikes, scooters, virtually all winter sports and "extreme" sports and any activity that threatens physical harm. If you do it anyway, you risk your contract being nullified. At the very least, you endanger a lucrative livelihood. That's why, to this day, I've never skied. I'd meet fellow parents at the school gates who would talk about just coming back from skiing and think it sounded great.

But I knew it wasn't worth it. Now I've hung up my boots, maybe I'll get around to it. But I accepted, as part and parcel of being a professional footballer, there were certain "normal" things I just couldn't do.

The same applies to a footballer's social life, and even relationships; normal rules don't apply. You can't just go out for a few drinks, even on your days off, and expect that to be private. Top footballers are constantly under scrutiny. Paparazzi and people who make money from selling information about even your most mundane activities, like shopping, mean your life unfolds under the microscope. This is not a complaint, because it goes with the territory, but it's a statement of fact. You cannot take "normal" activity for granted.

As for texting and sending pictures by phone, let me be absolutely clear: I don't condone anyone cheating on their wife or behaving stupidly. But that is surely a private matter to be sorted out between the parties involved. If X deserves a rollicking or Y has grounds for divorce, then so be it, but that's for them to decide, not me or you.

My point is that most people – a postman say, or an accountant, or you – can text or flirt or do pretty much whatever they want in their private life without the high probability that one day it will be front-page news for weeks on end.

Equally, you can go to the pub or a party without the virtual certainty that somebody will target you for a kiss-and-tell, and believe me, it's an ever-present hazard for most footballers, at most levels.

My view is it's basically soliciting when somebody wilfully tries to engage someone famous in sex because they know they can sell a story about it. It's prostitution, and a part of football as an industry that's full of hangers-on, parasites and prostitutes.

Let me stress again: I don't condone any bad – or dangerous – behaviour. But what pass as ordinary situations for many people are, or should be, no-go areas for footballers.

United must not grow complacent

What a great result for Manchester United in Italy as the feast that is the Champions League resumed on Tuesday. You hear so many pundits banging on about Milan's ageing team and their lack of legs but nobody in the game would be so naïve. It was always going to be tough to go there and come away with a result.

I'd wager that Sir Alex Ferguson would have been delighted to take a draw back to Old Trafford for the second leg. Instead it's a 3-2 advantage thanks – again – to the brilliance of Wayne Rooney. That's a strong position, but Fergie will be the first to stress: no complacency.

The fee for Andy Cole's column is donated to Alder Hey hospital and sickle cell anaemia research. He works on charitable projects with the sport and media team at law firm Thomas Eggar

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Nadine Gordimer died peacefully at home yesterday
people
Arts and Entertainment
Neil Young performs on stage at Hyde Park
musicAnd his Hyde Park set has rhyme and reason, writes Nick Hasted
News
Women have been desperate to possess dimples like Cheryl Cole's
people Cole has secretly married French boyfriend Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini after just three months.
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Extras
indybestThe tastiest creations for children’s parties this summer
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Paolo Nutini performs at T in the Park
music
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor