Cristiano Ronaldo put his Juventus side ahead against Manchester United on Wednesday night. His celebration: to lift his shirt and show off his sick pack. Outside the world of football, we’d all be calling him a weirdo. But, no one even seemed to care, this was just another expression of ‘CR7’s narcissism. Besides, the inflated egos of sportsmen does not seem so surprising in today’s world. There’s a load of stories of Ronaldo’s weird narcissism. When at Manchester United, there are stories of how he used to stare at himself in the mirror and describe himself aloud as ‘beautiful’. Even on the rare occasion Ronaldo offers praise to someone that isn’t himself, it is self congratulating. He described his agent Jorge Mendes, ‘the best, the Cristiano Ronaldo of agents’. And, you have to feel bad for his son. Cristian Ronaldo Jr (shock) is made to do sit ups at the age of five to mirror his fathers image. Ronaldo might be a cocky sod.
But, no one would say the Juventus star can’t kick ball. These days, even nobodies share this arrogant attitude. Meet Prince Patel. The little-known British bantamweight boxer has spent the last year fighting in Hungarian pubs and school sports halls against Bums and cab drivers. Yet, you would think he was a superstar based on his interviews. For instance, the nobody is so deluded that he has taken to giving shout-outs to his imaginary fanbases; the ‘prince-o-maniacs’ or the ‘prince-aholics’. Even weirder, Prince Patel refers to himself in the 3rd person. And that’s not Patel going all Kanye West, using his first name. No. The Prince prefers to call himself the ‘super sexy stud’.
It is hard to take this excessive arrogance at face value as his genuine personality. So, why does the boxer do it? One thing his arrogance has done is boost his public profile far beyond his abilities. Although, YouTube commenters may mock him as ‘Prince Prattel’, the clicks keep coming on his interviews. Of course, the ego of an athlete is a powerful way to build their brand in the modern sports-world of PR run official twitter accounts.
The hate Patel gets raises another question: how can some arrogant athletes become popular? The key is self-awareness. The master of this is the Swedish footballer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Zlatan gets away with his ego because he does it as a joke. For example, the Big Swede appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live showing off an advert about his arrival to LA Galaxy published in the LA Times. It simply read, ‘Dear Los Angeles, You’re Welcome’. But as Zlatan laughed with the audience, everyone knew not to take offence to his arrogance.
Still, Christiano Ronaldo’s arrogant antics are not very funny. Indeed, he has even admitted to not having ‘many friends’ in football. Poor Ron. Nonetheless, CR7 commands the respect of sports fans around the world.
This brings us onto the other way an athlete can maintain an ego to the public. Or as better put by the great braggadocio and beloved Muhammed Ali, ‘its not bragging if you can back it up’. The quality of other loudmouth athletes, like Floyd Mayweather, Conor McGregor or most other elite combat sports stars, often justifies their arrogance to the fans. And, perhaps there is something in this self-obsession that makes the great athletes the best.