On Monday, everyone’s favorite microblogging service, Twitter, turned 10 years old.
It was a day of celebration and reflection as those of us who have succumbed to the devil that is the 140-character-at-a-time soapbox. Twitter has quite literally changed the world for millions of people, fostering a rolling, rollicking, sometimes ridiculous conversation that at various times in the last decade has created movements of both positive and negative inertia, of both real world-changing import and inane, meaningless hilarity.
Football, or soccer, is no exception. Twitter may not have changed the game on the field, but it has changed the way we consume and discuss it. For both good and bad, Twitter has played a role in the development of all that surrounds the beautiful game—from the slapdash nature of the rumor-mongering news cycle to our very understanding of its intricate mysteries.
To celebrate Twitter and football, here are 5 ways the service has changed the game.
Not everyone can get down to the local pub to watch the match these days, and even if we could, there would always be matches that we’d have to enjoy in the comfort of home. Because of it’s real-time nature, Twitter has give communities of soccer viewers the chance to interact across the world during the biggest matches in the sport. Sure, sometimes it’s a race to the dumbest joke, and the stream is an awful lot of people yelling “GOAAALLLLL” at once, but there’s something thrilling and tribal about sharing the most astounding moments with the world.
It's nearly impossible to overstate just how crucial Twitter was in raising a new generation of football writers into the public consciousness. Twitter's rise coincided with that of the blogging boom (largely because they fed each other), which provided young, talented voices with a platform to promote themselves. Without Twitter, we might never have heard of Michael Cox, the man who became the tactical savant for a whole host of soccer fans suddenly in more than just the traditional platitudes.
The mechanisms have changed over the past few years, but it's always been true that Twitter—via Vine, or gifs or YouTube or whatever—has delivered to the masses the most remarkable moments the game has produced from around the world. Most of the time it's a goal from Messi or something else otherworldly done by an elite player in an elite league, but every now and then Twitter manages to help make viral a stunning thing done by someone playing off the beaten path. It's an egalitarian highlight machine.
This one is a bit of a double-edged sword. For everyone player Twitter has humanized, there are a dozen it laid bare as shallow cads. Perhaps more pointedly, Twitter has enabled the “branding” of players who would typically fall well short of the type of notoriety necessary to make their branding worthwhile. While Twitter itself has struggled to monetize its product, there's not doubt about the commercial impact it has had on anyone with even a small bit of fame. At the same time, Twitter has connected fans and players in ways that were previously unheard in the modern age.
Nothing sums up the modern game so much as the whirling rumor mill of player movement. As fans, we are inundated with stories about a potential transfer of Player A to Team B for insane fee C at nearly every turn, whether the window is open or not. Twitter has only exacerbated the business of selling rumor as news. It’s too easy for a comment from a single source (trustworthy or not) to be spread far and wide in the blink of an eye as users retweet without much thought. Twitter has also given rise to cottage industry of fake transfer rumors spread by jokesters who delight in making trigger happy pundits look bad with cleverly disguised breaking tweets.