In a recent article (in defense: a footballer’s tale) I explored the psychological idea of scapegoating
as applied to a young footballer and his team mates.
To recap, scapegoating is a situation where a number of people project negative feelings onto others who are then blamed for problems and – subsequently scorned or remove themselves in order to be safe.
Typically there are features of those scapegoated which set themselves apart from groups. Obvious examples include looks, attitudes, race, and ethnicity along with feelings of being in some way special. Scapegoating is dysfunctional – yet can serve a useful purpose, in that it can be used to bring about changes in groups including organisations such as football clubs.
Recent months have witnessed examples of scapegoating in the English premiership as well as other elite football leagues. For example, Jose Mourinho, or the `special one,` was blamed for many of Manchester United’s difficulties and, as such unceremoniously dispatched by the club. Neither Mourinho’s reputation nor proven abilities (although not as a player) could offer him protection from loss of grace. His self-proclaimed specialness ultimately brought his downfall.
However, perhaps fresher in people’s mind, concerns the treatment of Welsh international Gareth Bale by Real Madrid.
Bale has served Real Madrid with merit Nonetheless, he finds himself currently out of favour with the club and its supporters. Why, you might ask, is a player that has served his club with such distinction being treated so badly?
Well one possible solution might be that group processes are at work.
Gareth Bale arrived in Madrid amid huge expectations and not insignificant competition in the form of, among others, Cristiano Ronaldo. It was never going to be easy for the self-effacing Welshman – record transfer fee, new culture and joining the, arguably, best club in the world was always going to be a challenge.
However, Bale did not disappoint – on the field at least. Gareth Bale has contributed to six seasons with Real Madrid, scoring, just over a hundred goals and winning four Champions League trophies, scoring critical goals and assists in the finals .of the Champions’ League.
While injuries have undoubtedly contributed to Gareth Bale’s falling out of favour, there are other factors at play. A criticism frequently levelled at him concerns his apparent reluctance to integrate into his team’s social events –most notably failing to attend a dinner arranged by the influential Sergio Ramos.
Is has also been suggested that he has not applied himself to learning Spanish to a conversational level, which would allow him to enjoy family life more in Spain and conduct media interviews.
However, such criticisms seem at odds with his relationships with team mates in the Welsh international team where he is a popular team member. It may be the case that Bale’s unassuming nature sits more easily with the familiar.
Also, he has grown up as an English speaker in Wales where the Welsh language would serve to exclude a non-Welsh speaker to some extent. Subsequently, he may experience difficulties in assimilating a new language and as such find the company of fluent Spanish speakers uncomfortable.
There may of course be many other influences on Gareth Bale’s career at real Madrid. Nonetheless, regardless of how they might show themselves, they will all have their roots in individual and group dynamics.
Much like Mourinho’s time at Manchester United it doesn’t bode well to be different from the group you’re involved with. If there are tensions outsiders will always be in danger of scapegoating and whenever this occurs the only way out is the door.