17-year-old Ipswich Town FC defender Elkan Baggott is just one of a number of young athletes who have experienced an influx of social media attention at an incredibly young age, to the extent that he now has a larger following than his employers.
They say no player is bigger than the club, but not in the case of Elkan Baggott, at least in a social media sense. The 17-year-old defender for Ipswich Town has amassed an incredible 96,000 following on Instagram, almost 20,000 more than his current employers.
The majority of his followers are from his native Indonesia, where he gained a large amount of publicity following the signing of his scholarship contract in the UK. Baggott is now one of the hottest prospects to come out of the country and is set to represent Indonesia at international level.
Despite his high exposure, he only recently made his debut for Ipswich, a 2-0 win against League One Gillingham FC, in the EFL Trophy. He has become highly favoured at the club in a short period of time, with many teammates backing him to progress rapidly.
This sort of exposure can be great for players, allowing more people to see their talents and invest in their journey, and it’s becoming increasingly common for youth players to have a large following on social media, with many of them gaining verification on social platforms and becoming inspirations to many other young players, even before they have reached the first-team.
There are more platforms for these players to show an insight into life as an academy player and showcase their talents and experiences. They can use their platforms to promote good causes and uplift their teammates and supporters.
However, as expected, there is a negative impact to the huge following of young players on social media. The attention players receive at such a young age may have a detrimental effect on them, both on and off the pitch.
Like with any professional, a poor performance may lead to abuse from fans on social media, something that is hard to take at any age and could seriously affect a player’s mental health.
Pressure can also have a significant effect on a player’s well-being. If there are a lot of expectations and hype around a certain player, there is increased pressure for a player to perform well. This is something that has ultimately proved difficult for a number of players in the past and may continue to do so in the future as social media is continuously growing.
Ultimately, the constant growth of social media is in direct proportion to the constant growth of interest in youth football and youth players. While this is good for the game and brings a number of advantages to the players, it still leaves an opportunity for young athletes to end up in difficult situations that may affect their performances long-term.
Author: Abraham Adebayo