One of the main headlines dominating this week’s news was the shocking bomb attack on a bus carrying one of Europe’s top football teams to a Champions League game. Three pipe bombs were remotely detonated as the Borussia Dortmund bus left the team’s hotel heading towards the stadium for their quarter final tie against Monaco. Dortmund defender and Spanish international Marc Bartra was injured by flying shrapnel and later underwent an emergency operation for a broken wrist. A police officer also sustained injuries from the blast. The game was postponed and a man was later arrested on terror charges.
Earlier in the week, in a separate incident, Everton midfielder Ross Barkley was the victim of an “unprovoked attack” whilst out with friends in a Liverpool bar. Although this incident was far less sinister than the bus attack in Dortmund, both highlight the potential vulnerability of top flight footballers.
Attacks on footballers are not uncommon, last year the Manchester United team bus came under attack on its way to Upton Park in London when it strayed past a pub where West Ham fans were drinking. The United players dived for cover and filmed the incident on their phones as their bus was pelted with glasses and bottles. There were no injuries however it draws attention to another security incident that could have potentially been avoided.
Attacks on individual players are far more commonplace. Last year, West Ham striker Andy Carroll was subjected to a terrifying ordeal after allegedly being targeted by gunmen on motorcycles after he left the club’s training ground. A few weeks later, Bournemouth’s Jordon Ibe was held at knifepoint in south east London and robbed of his £25,000 Rolex watch.
Players’ homes have also been targeted with John Terry, Wayne Rooney, and Roberto Firmino being some of the most recent and highly publicised cases. In 2015, the wife of former Manchester United star Angel di Maria was reportedly too scared to return to their home following an attempted robbery at their Cheshire mansion. Thieves used scaffold poles to smash patio doors while the Argentina star, his wife and one-year-old daughter were relaxing inside.
These incidents are by no means isolated and further detailed research reveals the full extent of the issue. In a multi-million pound industry where players are high profile assets, it’s somewhat difficult to comprehend the continued pattern of attacks where footballers are the targets. In most other areas of player care, top level footballers are unashamedly mollycoddled by their clubs. Most football clubs appreciate that they have a duty of care to their players, so why are there so many lapses in security?
Whether they like it or not, top flight footballers are constantly in the public eye and media hype regarding their flash cars, glamorous girlfriends and ostentatious lifestyle will always attract attention. Unfortunately, that attention brings an unwelcome side. Whether it’s an organised criminal or a fan of an opposing team, footballers are targets.
This week’s attack on the Borussia Dortmund bus presents an alarming and dangerous problem, that of terrorism. Fortunately, minimal injuries were sustained this attack and it could’ve been far worse however, the intent was clear. Imagine the headlines if the bomb had massacred the entire team? Furthermore, imagine if during any of the incidents mentioned in the cases above, one of those footballers would have been taken hostage or even murdered? Scaremongering perhaps but it shouldn’t be ruled out.
Terrorists feed off news headlines and propaganda. A terrorist attack on a football team or an individual player would undoubtedly grab the exposure that a terrorist group craves. This week’s incidents further reinforce the vulnerability of modern sports stars. Nevertheless, attacks on footballers are nothing new and the football industry as a whole needs to wake up to that fact before something far more sinister happens.
Photo courtesy of Sky News.