An assault on how we should perceive Erling Haaland is raining down from social media. What sucks is the perpetrators couldn’t be more detached from reality. But this isn’t surprising. Character assassination has been in vogue since the advent of Twitter and now Haaland is primed to be the next victim.
We, as a soccer-watching community, cannot let this happen.
The Borussia Dortmund striker was interviewed after his team’s 4-0 defeat of rivals Schalke — a match in which Haaland scored the opening goal. With a 10-foot pole holding a microphone inches from his face, the 19-year-old answered a couple of softball questions with few words.
Here’s where the attack on his character arises. At the end of the interview, he quips back to the reporter “why not?” when asked why his team went to the supporter section to pay homage to the fans who could not be in attendance during the geisterspiele. Then, he agree with the reporter that there was a message being sent. He’s asked what the message was and he says “to my fans.” Commence outrage.
The full interview is below and what is painfully obvious to see is that the questioning led him down the “self-absorbed” road. Taken out of context, he may think of himself as a god. But when you actually listen to what is being said, he’s being an honest teenager with a bright light shoved in his face.
So please, save your negative comments about his undeserved arrogance. Haaland is not a cocky teenager. He’s not the Norwegian version of Cobra Kai’s Johnny Lawrence. He’s a confident player who knows he’s going to be in soccer fans lives for the next two decades. You know this. The journalist knows. And everyone in the world knows, too.
The Athletics’ Raphael Honigstein actually talked to the journalist Oliver Muller:
Muller was surprised the clip of his abortive interview has become a point of earnest discussion in the player’s native country. “I was asked by Norwegian journalists about it — they’re worried he might have become too big for his boots. But it wasn’t like that. He made me smile. When I said, ‘Thank you very much for the interview, it was a pleasure to talk to you’ at the end, I was being both a little ironic and honest at the same time. It is a pleasure to talk to him, because he is different.”
While outrage of this specific incident might flame out by Saturday, it could be a dangerous seed planted in fans’ heads about the way this wonderkid carries himself. Haaland is now a marked man. He’s been wrongfully booked for diving and now everyone will be quick to bounce when he falls to the ground again, claiming “that’s another dive!”
We can’t let this arrogant label precipitate a negative connotation toward Haaland’s personality. Sports, like anything in the entertainment industry, thrives on big and loud personalities. That doesn’t mean it has to be bad or tired. So what if this teenager sounds confident. He should be. We all wish we could be as accomplished as him before our 20s.
I guess where all of this is going is this, don’t stop defending Haaland against the negativity spawning from faceless Twitter handles. Enjoy what’s unfolding in front of you because he’s going to be in our life for a long, long time. We might as well have some fun while it lasts.