Sky Sports criticised for coverage of Liverpool’s 7-year-old ‘next Messi’

Seven-year-old Liverpool academy player Arat Hosseini has been the subject of social media buzz for a long time, and Sky Sports have now been criticised for their coverage.

Iranian youngster Arat has been connected with the Reds since 2019, but he is unable to formally join the club’s academy until under-9s level.

The influence of his father, Mohamed, who runs his social media accounts, has led to a startling rise to fame that has seen his skill videos and photographs shared with 5.8 million followers on Instagram.

His followers include Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, along with the likes of Will Smith, Vin Diesel, Lewis Hamilton, The Rock, David Beckham and a host of high-profile footballers and clubs.

Arat is, then, no stranger to viral fame, but the regular coverage of a seven-year-old – regardless of his footballing ability – is hugely questionable.

This week saw Sky Sports run a feature on the child footballer, interviewing him in his family home in Liverpool while he is described as “the new Messi.”

After a series of questions on his following, his skills and, bizarrely, the prospect of playing for the Reds’ first team, Arat is asked about his “ultimate dream” in football.

“To be the best football player in the world,” he replied, with the reporter then asking if he believes he would achieve this.

“Yes, sure,” Arat said. “Because I practised a lot and I think I should.”

The child’s father then joins the interview, explaining: “What he was doing was so abnormal for a small child, he just wanted a place to store the videos for his own enjoyment – and it also led to other people’s enjoyment as well.”

PARIS, FRANCE - Wednesday, August 11, 2021: Lionel Messi signs for Paris Saint-Germain Football Club from FC Barcelona, pictured at the Parc des Princes. (©PSG)

The word ‘abnormal’ is certainly apt for this type of coverage, and with a seven-year-old being compared to Lionel Messi, with journalists, coaches and fans all criticising the video.

Stevie Grieve, head of recruitment at St Johnstone, wrote: “Stop interviewing kids who are good at football and labelling them.”

“Broadcasting stories like this is irresponsible,” Tom Hartley, performance coach developed for UK Coaching, added.

“Adults need to stop putting labels, pressure, constraints on children. Let kids be kids.”

The Athletic’s Tom Crafton nailed it with his assessment:

Given Liverpool are not formally associated with Arat at this point, it is unlikely they can intervene when it comes to media coverage.

But as Crafton points out, it would surely be discouraged at Kirkby.