With a career spanning more than a decade across four of Europe’s best leagues, Mikael Silvestre is a journeyman of not just the Premier League, but European football as a whole. We caught up with the former French international to discuss matters past, present and future earlier this week.
Having played for clubs such as Manchester United, Arsenal and Internazionale Milan, Silvestre has seen legends come and go, and has been amongst countless superstars in his 16-year professional career.
One of the things that has come but remained is social networking. Having been established in the mid-noughties, the stock in social media websites has done nothing but soar since their inception. With sites such as Facebook and Twitter now reaching the billions in total users from personal accounts to major sporting clubs to worldwide corporations.
Looked upon as role models in certain facets of society, professional athletes are among those that earn the most coverage on these types of sites, and while he’s fairly new to the fad, we got a taste of just how Silvestre looks upon the internet craze.
Tom Sunderland: Having played in elite European leagues since before the turn of the century, what sort of impact do you think social media such as Twitter has had on the life of a professional football?
Mikael Silvestre: I think if you look at the news, you can see it’s been causing more troubles than benefits for the players themselves. I believe it’s good for the clubs and the sponsors but for the players? It’s not so good.
You hear about players tweeting from the dressing rooms and giving out information such as formations and tactics, and it’s not good. They need to keep these kinds of things to themselves.
TS: You mention confidential information being given away by players, there. Have you ever run into players doing that in one of your dressing rooms?
MS: There was only one occasion where I’ve been around it myself. At Werder Bremen, a young player (who shall remain anonymous) shared his feelings about being left out by the manager, who was Thomas Schaaf. Two minutes later, the manager had been told about the issue and he was never a part of the squad again.
It’s dangerous because if you’re angry, those aren’t the kinds of things you need to be sharing with the world. It’s stupid!
TS: So, what is it that drew you to join Twitter, personally?
MS: Well, I only joined Twitter earlier this year after I left Werder Bremen, and I mainly came on to promote my rum business. I think it can work well with factors such as business and such, but you can’t get too personal.
I’ll talk about certain games that I may be watching or comment on certain matters but I try not to get personal because anyone can see your tweets. The thing with the internet now is that once it’s gone, it’s gone! You can’t take anything back.
TS: You also use Twitter to promote a children’s charity that you work with called Schools For Hope. Could you tell us a little bit more about that?
MS: Schools For Hope is focused towards improving education in less economically developed countries, contributing through fundraising as well as our own input. This year, we’ve been able to put 25 kids into education in Guinea. They’re now attending boarding school every day, which I’m sure wouldn’t have been possible without the organization’s help.
TS: The issue of player’s wages in football and whether or not they’re paid too much is something that pops up from time to time. There are obviously plenty of footballers that do a lot for their own communities and elsewhere, but from your experience, do you think charity work is something that some players could do with becoming more involved in?
MS: Well, I think in England, the players definitely do a lot but we don’t always have the time to do as much as some would perhaps like. You’re right in thinking that more can always be done, but I think England in particular are very active when it comes to charitable work.
For example, Manchester United does a lot of work with UNICEF (The United Nations Children’s Fund) and the players are doing well.
TS: You’ve played under quite a few managers in your career, one of whom being Arsene Wenger, who is known for his strict regulations on players. Do you think a manager needs to stay on top of the relations his players have with social media or is that sense of freedom more important?
MS: You have to allow players to have their own freedom, but only as long as it doesn’t affect the club, its image, or its spirit. I think players need to remember to be respectful for the team, who are their employers at the end of the day.
Sometimes, players can get into trouble because they are young and they don’t totally understand the way of doing things. Saying that, Ashley Cole isn’t that young!
TS: You mention someone like Ashley Cole, who is one of numerous English players to get in trouble over social media of late, do you think players in England get a bad wrap or are they genuinely more mischievous?
MS: Yes, it looks like it. I think it has a lot to do with the press, who has limited access to the players in the Premier League. I’ve been to France, I’ve been to Italy and I’ve been to Germany. In all those leagues, the press follows you.
You can park your car at the training ground in Germany and then you have to stop and talk to them. Because it’s like this, they don’t look so much for what’s being said in social media.
TS: So, would you say the English media strive to pick out certain flaws in their players because they don’t have that kind of access?
MS: Well, I remember during the Euros (2012), there were two or three pages in a newspaper full of just what players had been tweeting. I can’t remember what paper it was but they seemed to put a big emphasis on the more private aspect.
In England, the journalists are not fed the same amount of information and they need to write stories every day! As a result, they look a little more closely at what’s going on with the social media.
I know that with Manchester United and with Arsenal, the press is at the club during the week but you’ll still find stories that you wouldn’t have known about come the weekend. They have to dig.
TS: As you’re aware, SWOL is based in Miami. Have you ever had the chance to visit the “Magic City?”
MS: I actually made my first vacation to Miami last summer and I really enjoyed it. It’s already very popular with footballers and I’ll certainly be returning soon.
Miami was actually a big influence for my rum business (Rhum St Barth) because of the culture they have down there.
TS: What opportunities do you think there are for Miami to be used as an MLS “hub” of sorts, and the potential it has to leverage the star power around it?
MS: I definitely think there’s a lot of MLS potential in the city because there currently isn’t an MLS club in Florida. Miami is a major city and it’s very cosmopolitan, so I believe that a lot of people there would embrace having a football club.
I think if a top level club were to be started in Miami, there would already be a huge fan base, so there’s definitely that working for them.
TS: Mikael, you’ve played in France, England, Italy and Germany’s best leagues. Are there any other divisions you want to conquer before hanging up your boots?
MS: Yes, I would like to play in the MLS. However, I am currently in talks with a club in Mumbai called Dodsal, and they’ve shown interest in me. We’re still in early talks but I think Mumbai could certainly be an emerging market.
TS: Who knows, maybe Mikael Silvestre can be a part of Florida’s first MLS side?
MS: Haha, maybe!
TS: Lastly, I can’t let you go without asking a certain question. You’ve been back training with your former club, Manchester United as of late. Can we expect to see Mikael Silvestre back in the English top flight anytime soon?
MS: Not really, no. When I first came, I had a chat with the boss (Alex Ferguson) and he told me to come train with the side, but that was it. It was mainly just to keep fit and spend some time here with my family, so unfortunately not, no.
SWOL would like to say thank you to Mikael for setting aside a bit of his time for us. Be sure to Follow @IamMSilvestre
here to get all of his latest updates.