Trust our footballers to tell us what men really think of women

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The Independent Online

Is there a causal link between being a successful British footballer and being arrested on suspicion of sexual assault or rape? Plenty of people believe that there is, and believe too that they know what that link is. "When you take a thick bloke from nowhere, give him huge riches, massive attention, and endless training in physical fitness," they ask rhetorically, "then what do you expect?"

Is there a causal link between being a successful British footballer and being arrested on suspicion of sexual assault or rape? Plenty of people believe that there is, and believe too that they know what that link is. "When you take a thick bloke from nowhere, give him huge riches, massive attention, and endless training in physical fitness," they ask rhetorically, "then what do you expect?"

What do we expect? Explanations of what roasting is, discussions about how dogging fits into the modern lifestyle, a television drama series revealing just what sort of idiot women marry the idiot boys, and lots and lots of highly speculative front pages which usually peter away into short reports on the inside pages explaining that all charges have been dropped because of lack of evidence.

The three women who have made the latest accusations have witnesses, at least, who heard what went on in the hotel room next to them, even if they didn't see it. But already, anyway, the usual kind of defence is being mustered for the men in question. There are reports in the press that the players were "victims duped into a honey trap. They claim the women dressed provocatively to attract the players, then turned nasty once the men realised their mistake and backed off."

In case any female readers are fretting that they might be clothed in items provocative enough to justify having their doors broken down for sex in the middle of the night, then help is at hand. The papers yesterday also published a photograph of the sort of outfit worn by those who definitely do not deserve sexual attack.

The conviction of Antoni Imiela, also known as the M25 rapist, was greeted with relief by the popular press. All agreed that his victims had suffered hugely, and that they each had had difficulties in continuing with their normal lives after undergoing violent rape.

One, though, 10 years old at the time she was violated, was deemed to be a perfect example of this. She had taken her first Holy Communion at nine, and a picture of her dressed in her little bride-of-Christ outfit, face pixillated out, was considered just the thing to illustrate just how dreadful Mr Imiela's crime had been.

Unfortunately, without the benefit of the photograph to guide them, the girls' peers didn't get it. "She's going through a lot with the kids on the street," her mother told the press. "They keep saying to her 'You got raped, you got raped' and calling her a slut."

So what is going on in the minds of these people, who taunt a girl because she has been the victim of a heinous crime? Could it be, by coincidence, that this is the next generation of talented young footballers, destined for fame, fortune and gangbangs after a good night out at the Funky Buddha? Or could it be that in their attitudes to women, the footballers we vilify are typical rather than outlandish?

The problem isn't what footballers get up to, but that nobody really pays much attention to what young men get up to, unless they are footballers. Ian Huntley, for example, would not have been much of an advert for footballing either had he been a player rather than a fan. But as a nobody from the underclass, his career as a serial rapist wasn't even deemed interesting enough to keep on file.

Prince of hearts

My stony heart is not warmed by reports of Prince Harry's trip to Africa. He was there, apparently, to raise awareness of Aids in Lesotho. But the fact that almost half the population is now believed to have the virus has probably raised awareness of Aids in Lesotho quite enough already.

How the presence of a 19-year-old multi-millionaire is going to persuade the many men in southern Africa who still refuse to wear condoms of the error of their ways, I can't imagine. I don't suppose Harry is sure either. But no doubt the coverage he's been getting over the past few days beats the stuff about him falling out of nightclubs.

Back home, we have been fully conversant with the scale of the epidemic in Africa since the 1980s. This, apparently, we owe to Prince Harry's mother, whose mantle he is taking up. So, one wonders, if Diana was so great at tackling Aids in Africa, then why is the situation so appalling now?

Is it because she died and we all forgot her? Fat chance. We'll never be allowed to forget her. But we find it perfectly easy to forget the causes that she espoused. Diana's touch didn't heal all the ills she associated herself with. Nor will poor Harry's. He's following in his mother's footsteps, all right - by raising awareness of himself, he's becoming a media target.

Thanks, Abbey, for showing me the error of my ways

I think the Abbey National, or "Abbey" as the company now wants us to call it, may have turned an advertising corner. I've never before looked at a billboard, and found myself thinking that I must forthwith divest myself of an organisation's services. But yesterday that day came.

Big lime-green posters festoon the London Underground, featuring a photograph of an apparently frigid-looking old battleaxe reading The Joy of Sex. That's annoying. But it's the accompanying text that's really annoying.

"We're for the bored rigid," it says. "We're for the confused. The frightened. The ignored. The sceptical. The freaked out and the fed-up. We're for the ones who refuse to be pigeon-holed. We're for clarity, openness, and a straightforward chat. We're here for you."

You're not. You're here for you. You've never, ever done anything for us. You let us carry on with a fixed rate endowment mortgage through all the years of plunging interest rates and diving endowment performances. When we tried to alter it, you were really rude and stroppy, so we eventually had to take our business elsewhere.

You are indeed here for the "bored rigid" and the "confused". But that's only because we're easy to fleece. Enough is enough. Even we aren't going to be "pigeon-holed" as that gullible. We're cancelling our home contents insurance policy now. Due to years of punishing mortgage payments, there's nothing of value in the damned home anyway.

¿ The "war on motorists" continues, with drivers "stunned" by the assertion that none of Britain's speed cameras needs to be removed. Motorists argue that the machines are there only to make money, not to curb speed, seemingly unaware that if speed limits were being observed, then the machines would not be making any money. If these people really want to rid Britain of speed cameras, then they should get militant. How about a campaign of civil obedience?

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