It is probably fair to say that, as a kid, Änis Ben-Hatira just wanted to play football. Life is easy, playing in the Bolzplätze, fenced in to another world where the ball is the only deciding factor – where he could play and play. He was better than most of the others, too. These would have been the same pitches in Wedding where Thomas Icke Häßler was discovered, with skills so sublime that the fact he wasn't tall enough to be a jockey didn’t really come as too much of a problem. He had the same dreams, coming from the same place: It’d be great if they paid me to play football.
He probably wouldn’t have thought that he would have to deal with all of this… shit.
On Saturday night Ben-Hatira was arrested, the Hertha BSC winger had got into an argument with his ex-girlfriend, Ines Redjeb, after a coincidental meeting, and within hours the papers were reporting it was because he had stolen her purse. The story is a bit weird; it makes as much sense as a Ramones ballad. His ex is then supposed to have followed him to a petrol station where they were met by the police, and he was carted off. “Jealousy,” she said. She just wants an apology, and to know why he did it. For his part, Ben-Hatira says he is bemused, and that she left the purse in his car. He is only talking through his lawyers; the club have swept a protective cloak of silence around his shoulders.
Many of the Hertha fans are suspicious if Redjeb’s motives, and the ex-TV talent show participant has certainly got her face into a lot of the newspapers after this incident. But it is a sad state of affairs to think that either of them would be lying to either bolster or to protect their careers. Unfortunately though, this is the way that the world works nowadays. Young footballers act like idiots because they are feted over like gods, and paid better. Young celebrities need the oxygen of publicity, they are acutely aware that to be out of the public eye is to not exist anymore in this weird fucking world. It is death by press asphyxiation.
The truly sad thing is that neither situation is inconceivable, and we all encourage it with our relentless demand for celebrity fluff driven nonsense and tittle-tattle. We have forfeited the right to moral condemnation when we so happily gawk at the car crashes whilst saying that we don’t really watch that sort of thing, don't buy those newspapers, we don’t really pay footballers’ wages.
I don’t know Änis Ben-Hatira, but I do, sort of, feel very sorry for him. It had to be now (and baring in mind that we don’t know if he’s done something or not) that he is playing well, now that everybody is saying how much more grown up he has become in the wake of his sisters’ brutal attack earlier this year. He has become a man we can trust, they all said. It was showing on the pitch, too. It looked as if this season he could really make the breakthrough into being a massive player for his home town club, and once again, everything has hit the skids, and everybody is talking about something other than his play on the wing.
He may well play for Hertha tonight against Dynamo Dresden as the threat of a criminal charge for theft hangs over him, but one needs to be a little careful in damning either him, or Redjeb, before we know the facts. No one ever said that allied to the incredible technique, strength, determination, balance and poise that are needed to become a professional footballer; they need to have brains as well. It is those of us who drive the culture, though, who are just as guilty.