Early Doors

Benitez’s tragic death marked by mistruth and dumbing down

Early Doors

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Death continues to be no respecter of reputation. Neither does a reputation bring respect after death. Especially not in these days of social networking where somebody, anybody it seems, can easily start off a rumour passing itself off as fact on the largely toxic brand that is Twitter before the rest retweet it like rats following the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

The lack of decorum to be found among some of the news sources yesterday reacting to the untimely and horrendous news of Christian Bentitez's death at the age of 27 was largely lamentable, it must be said.

We have of course been down this road plenty of times before with Twitter when some keyboard warriors, a few fairly visible such as Sally Bercow - wife of Commons speaker John Bercow - and the slightly barmy presenting bod Philip Schofield, were turning ill-informed amateur sleuths and nonce hunters by wrongly accusing figures in the public eye of some heinous acts based on hearsay and misinformation.

Before you know it, other people were passing off their second- and third-hand tales as if they were the truth. And on it goes. And on it goes. In this day and age of mixed-up people, it is all very dangerous stuff.

Football is not immune to this lack of facts as we saw when esteemed news sources such as the BBC and a few other tabloid newspapers were regaling us with the news that Benitez, a forward representing Ecuador who once turned out for Birmingham City, had died in a car crash in Qatar.

You couldn't make it up. But if you were on the case at the BBC yesterday, it seems that you could. Just because you are first with some news, does not mean you are right.

It was later confirmed Benitez had died just hours after playing for his new club El Jaish of Qatar. At least Reuters appeared to have their facts in order when they filed a report based on news from Benitez's national football association.

"Benitez... felt strong stomach pains, so he was taken in an emergency to a hospital where after a few hours he suffered cardiorespiratory failure which ended his life," the Ecuador Football Federation said in a statement on their website.

"The Ecuadorean Football Federation extends its deepest condolences to the relatives, parents, wife, children and friends of our goalscorer Christian Benitez."

The insinuation that Benitez perished in a car crash was all in bad taste because there is an implication that he could have been guilty of reckless driving in Qatar, a part of the world renowned for road standards about as safe as sword fighting.

Goodness knows how somebody came up with that line. Goodness know why the BBC chose to regurgitate it as fact.

Last night reports continued to fly around Twitter that the player had passed away in a car crash.

We await further news on the events leading up to his death, but Associated Press used the story as some sort of justifiable reason why the World Cup in Qatar in 2022 is a non-starter. Rather than some solemnity, it rounded off news of the man's death with the following words:

"Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup and the searing temperatures have prompted many former football stars as well as FIFA President Sepp Blatter to call for the competition to be moved to the cooler, winter months. Blatter plans to ask FIFA's executive committee later this year to move it."

Having lived and worked in those climes, playing football three and four times a week, it is not the most comfortable for running around in at night - certainly not in July and August - but neither is it life-threatening.

Hosting a World Cup at that juncture of the year is an act of folly, as much for the comfort of spectators as players, but it is also very possible to play 90 minutes when the sun goes down with enough breaks and plenty of water.

Sports Illustrated managed to get the tone of their reporting of Benitez's death all wrong as they ran with the headline: 'Ecuador star Christian Benitez dies a day after playing in Qatar heat'. Linking Benitez's death to the heat in Qatar is flawed and unsubstantiated.

The problem sketchy reports illustrate, especially those emanating from outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, is that everybody thinks they are a celebrity in their own movie these days.

People can be listened to immediately. They can be heard or seen by saying or doing outrageous things. Facts on these mediums are about as trustworthy as a chocolate fireguard. Such outlets are not a world this onlooker wants to inhabit, but people feel the need to be heard or be photographed.

One minute you can be sitting on the toilet pan, the next you can be the star of your own sitcom. Like it or not, this is the world which we inhabit.

Benitez's death is tragic. He moved to Qatar from Club America for around £10m, but his death serves to remind us that money is ultimately meaningless.

The good die young as they say, but carrier pigeon would have been a more reliable way to forward the news of his death than social networking.

We live in a world of dumbing down. A world where once esteemed sources think it is normal practice to hit the masses with any old port. And expect them to swallow it.

A world where it seems to be acceptable to report that a young man died in a car crash when he died in a hospital.

Desmond Kane

(LONGISH) QUOTE (STATEMENT) OF THE DAY: “If I have one regret, it is the way that I am leaving. It is only natural that I would be disappointed that the Liverpool management agreed to loan me to Napoli without telling me first, I thought that I deserved better than that even though I understand that difficult decisions have to be taken in football. A lot has been made about me informing the club that if an offer came in from Barcelona that I would have liked them to consider it. But I had also spoken to the club about the possibility of extending my contract if the offer was not made.I told the manager that I wanted to play for Liverpool and that Barcelona would only become an option for me if the opportunity arrived, like the rumours said it would, as it would be a chance for me to go back home. When it didn’t come I was happy to fight for my place so I was surprised that Liverpool decided it was in the club´s interests to send me to Napoli instead.” Jose Reina seems to be far from content about the handling of his loan move from Liverpool to Napoli.

FOREIGN VIEW: Real Madrid's newspaper mouthpiece Marca continue to suggest Gareth Bale will join the club sooner rather than later. But Tottenham chief executive Daniel Levy is not really in the mood to do business at £86m. Could Madrid offer £100m for the Welshman? It does not sound ridiculous.

COMING UP: Eurobot is on the go at 12:30pm (BST). And the former Manchester United and England defender Paul Parker will also be along to offer his thoughts on happenings in world football.

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