If you’re anything like me, you haven’t seen the ball drop on New Year’s Eve since the days NSYNC and 98 Degrees were tearing up the pop charts. Back in those days, you’d be ringing in the new year donning your best puka shell necklace and ribbed Abercrombie and Fitch sweater, chugging the best swill you could buy with the money you reaped from selling your textbooks back for pennies on the dollar. Now, I couldn’t care less and barely even noticed when the clock struck midnight.
However, if you’re anything like Radja Nainggolan, and if you are, good on you, you celebrated the dawn of a new year with a few drinks and a couple of velvety smooth cowboy killers. And hey, since it’s the 21st century, you just absolutely had to broadcast your escapades for all the world to see, consequences be damned.
Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Consequences? For What? He was doing the same thing I was at the exact same moment! What gives!?” Ah, ah, ah, not so fast. See, the inevitable downside to publishing every minutiae of your life on Instagram is that, eventually, someone takes note and makes a big deal out of it.
Enter La Gazzetta dello Sport, who passed along the video to those of us who don’t see the point in Instagram, putting Nainggolan’s “antics”, such as they are, on center stage. Nainggolan reacted quickly to GdS publishing (or re-publishing I suppose) Nainggolan’s New Years Eve reverly.
Anche a capodanno pensate a fare le notizie... auguro un buon anno a tutti tranne a quelli... ma fatevi una vita...— Radja Nainggolan (@OfficialRadja) January 1, 2018
That, in sum, is Radja telling the GdS to get a life for making his seemingly normal routine a matter for publication. Following standard 21st century protocol, this story took on a new life and prompted an apology from Nainggolan, who took to Instagram again saying
I’m sorry about what happened tonight...As you know, I like having fun with my friends and I love celebrating New Year... but last night I went too far. I saw it as a special night where you can exaggerate a little...I certainly didn’t intend to give a negative example. This is why I feel I need to apologise for my words and my behaviour. Forza Roma forever...!!!
Lest they be accused of letting the inmates run the asylum, Roma reacted in turn, fining Nainggolan a reported €100,000 and dropping him from the squad to face Atalanta tomorrow, with only a vague yet ominent warning from Monchi claiming that “anyone who does not have a winning mentality cannot have a place at Roma.” While I’m not sure how celebrating New Year’s Eve like a normal adult constitutes a lack of winning mentality, the club chose to draw a hardline nevertheless.
The club shed more light on their decision today in an official press release, with Eusebio Di Francesco stepping to the mic:
In line with the club’s code of conduct, which I fully endorse and the player himself accepts, Radja Nainggolan will not be selected for tomorrow’s game against Atalanta...This is a policy that applies across the board, should anyone from AS Roma or representing Roma make certain mistakes that are no longer acceptable.
Anyone who is wrong in a similar fashion will be punished in the same way. These are the rules. Beyond this, the thoughts and opinions [of others] really don’t interest me. I will just state again that Radja will not play tomorrow.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the club holding their players accountable for deleterious actions, but Nainggolan didn’t hurt anyone, didn’t damage any public property, didn’t endanger the welfare of any minors, nor was he drunkenly urinating on the club crest, so this all seems a bit excessive to me, almost as if the club is grandstanding in their attempt to be seen as “winners” who won’t tolerate any behavior they deem as a “mistake”, as if getting intoxicated on New Year’s Eve and firing a few expletives towards a camera necessarily connotes a mistake.
If anything, Nainggolan’s transgressions were symptomatic of the current state of global affairs in which people deem it necessary to publish every waking moment of their life and act surprised when people react negatively. So if Nainggolan should be chided for anything, it's perhaps being a bit naive, but to dock him a hundred grand and suspend him from this match seems a step too far.
He didn’t commit any crimes and, quite frankly, didn’t do anything he hasn’t done his entire tenure with Roma. This is bridging towards the club legislating how their players spend their free time. Nainggolan is well past the age of consent and wasn’t involved in any sort of activity like BASE jumping that would immediately endanger his athletic career, and sure, broadcasting it for public consumption wasn’t the shrewdest move, but he was well within his legal rights to do so, making this whole affair even more absurd.
Now, not only have Roma potentially pissed off their most important player and set a dangerous precedent in the process, they have, for no legitimate reason, set themselves up for failure against an Atalanta side that has played them as well as anyone over the past few years, and for what, a few cigarettes, some salty talk and a smartphone?
Roma, god bless ‘em, they always keep things interesting.