In a perfect world we support football players who we would like to like. Sympathetic media profiles are designed to increase our affection for them. Certain aspects of their on-field character give clues to their overall personalities, which give further support to our affections for the players we are asked to like in an entirely different dimension. Take Blackburn Rovers captain Ryan Nelsen. He's a family man who the other players laugh at because he doesn't wear flash clothes or drive a Hummer or a Bentley. On the field he is brave, honest and very committed.
Then there's El Hadji Diouf, a pantomime villain with an image so ludicrous it's almost impossible to exaggerate his actions and outrages. A caption under a picture of him in the Daily Star this week read: "DIOUF hated." Certain of our supporters like his fist pumping and his ability to wind opposition fans up. Bolton fans had a song celebrating his spitting. He's also a "wife beater," who swears offensively in this prank call and has his ludicrous gansta look and likes flash motors.
Football wise, his performances have been patchy. His corners are rubbish, but his unpredictability can unsettle opponents and turn nothing into something.
Now, according that imperious source of news, the News of the World, Nelsen and Diouf had a scrap after our digraceful performance at Everton last week. Proper windmills and everything. That's after he lies about racist abuse and bananas thrown at him by Everton fans (as if they'd ever do that), he supposedly swears at a ballboy, then has a fist fight with the team captain, a man above criticism (though probably at fault for one of the goals).
If you start to pick apart each one of these incidents the interpretation of them serves the same charicature. It's a witch hunt, feeding a frenzy of loathing for him. There's more to this than meets the eye.