Twitter is starting to become a prominent forum in football these days. Who in the last week hasn’t followed the Craig Foster Robbie Slater spat that was initiated by Slater on twitter? It is well known in football circles the former Socceroo team mates have never been best of friends but few could have imagined the public pasting Slater sent to Foster post his weekly article commenting on the merits of the Melbourne Victory appointment of Northern Irishman Jim Magilton. The power of social media is phenomenal. Instinctively, with the touch of a screen, people can comment on anything and anyone.

This powerful tool has already landed A-League players in hot water having fired gunshot opinions that should be left behind closed doors, not shared in the insatiable public forum of cyberspace. Slater went hard and low on Foster, calling him a racist and bringing up a skeleton from Foster’s past with his unfortunate arrest in Tahiti whist on duty with the Socceroos back in 2000. Foster is employed to have an opinion, he is the chief football analyst for SBS and it’s a role he takes very seriously.

It’s a position that formerly was held by the late Johnny Warren, a man universally admired and loved as the champion of Australian football. Craig Foster’s style however is very different to Johnny Warren and this has made him some enemies in the game. The supporters of Craig Foster will herald his articulate theories, his passion and love for the Australian game and his unflinching commitment to football utopia which he believes only Barcelona have played consistently in recent years.

The game has to be played with a high level of technique, it requires sophisticated tactics, it needs to be fast, exciting and attacking and importantly – you have to win consistently. The Foster detractors find him arrogant and dismissive of certain cultures of football played around the world. A man who never played at the very highest level yet has scant regard for different styles unless it’s played the way he believes it should be played, a man that hasn’t managed a football team. His style gets many people off side, its confronting, its direct and at times can be abrasive.

Who can forget the time he tore strips out of Ange Postecoglou when he was in charge of our National youth teams? History shows Postecoglou recovered, securing the position as top manager in the A-League, but many without the same ability and conviction may have never recovered. For the record Foster came out in his typical style and teed off on Jim Magilton claiming the biggest club in the A-League has taken a step back hiring him. Foster believes that the best managers – to improve the standard of our game – should come from the continent where technical football and tactics are modern and superior to the British managers still teaching the kick-and-rush game.

This sweeping judgement of British football and early stinging appraisal of Jim Magilton had Slater seething. “Bulldog” as he is affectionately known, acted true to his nick name, by charging Foster in a stunning emotive twitter attack that left Australian football people stunned.

Magilton is a close friend of Slater which begs the question, ” Was ‘Bulldog’ guilty of his own form of nepotism?” Incensed by Foster’s depiction of Magilton as a retrograde step, and criticising his style and achievements, Slater launched his attack, noting that Foster had played in England and was brought into the Australian side under an English coach.

“In my opinion (it) is a racist column and it is beyond me how he continually gets away with these vile articles,” he wrote. “Craig you have disgraced yourself . It is surprising that you dislike the British so much because after all they gave you a career playing in the guess what – the Championship. You didn’t mind the British then did you? “What is this pedestal you have put yourself on? It is not the one the late and great Johnny Warren stood on, he would be ashamed of you!”

Foster declined to comment on any of Slater’s allegations when contacted by The Daily Telegraph last night. Slater also referred to an incident in Tahiti in 2000 when the Socceroos were in a nightclub following a victory in a World Cup qualifier, that he said was Foster’s “dark secret”.

“Explain to all your followers why you are the only Socceroo to have been to my knowledge effectively banned, never to be selected again, after a disgraceful incident following a World Cup qualifier.” Foster responded early the next day, “In any forum, if you fail to formulate a cogent argument and personalise the issue you have already lost. Opinion is the lifeblood of the game. “The issue regarding coaching culture and quality is absolutely critical for HAL (the A-League) and future of the Australian game.”

He further elaborated later in the day, “The utterly inappropriate use of the word racism is something about which I am disappointed,” Foster said in the Fairfax media. “It is an important issue in our game and should be treated far more respectfully than to be tossed around so flippantly. This can’t be dignified by a response and demonstrates a complete incomprehension of the issue.”

“People can form their own opinions about the manner in which Rob has conducted himself, but you will not hear me complaining. I undertake my media roles with strong messages as I feel necessary in the service of the game, and always accept criticism or consequences in return.” He said the incident in Tahiti has been put to bed after he was cleared of any wrongdoing. However, following his arrest he was never selected to play for the Socceroos again.

“Far from being a secret, the issue is well known within football and, in fact, I have many times used it to lecture young players on the perils of international touring,” he said. “Nevertheless, and for the record, a small group of Socceroos were placed in a position of conflict over a decade ago that was not of our making but from which we were absolved of responsibility.

“It was regrettable, but in hindsight probably not in the circumstances avoidable. Bonita Mersiades managed the situation with local authorities very well, as misunderstandings could easily have occurred through the language barrier, and for this we remain in her debt.” While Slater interpreted Foster’s criticism of the Melbourne Victory’s appointment of Northern Irishman Jim Magilton as coach as anti-British and racist, Foster said his criticism was aimed solely at the quality of coaches produced by the British soccer system. Whatever your take on this distasteful episode between two former Socceroo team mates now media heavyweights, there is no doubt twitter played a role in taking the exchange to another level.

Twitter offered Slater the ability to send off such raw, emotionally charged comments which consequentially sent the football world into a tail spin. There is no doubt twitter will offer fans much entertainment as a rapid forum in today’s technological world, but people using it have to be very careful what they say. All powerful weapons require responsibility. If used incorrectly dire consequences can result. Expect the slander lawyers to have a field day taking on future cases. Bob Dylan once wrote, “Times they are a changing!”