Spanish soccer player Alejandro Balde, currently in the running for a prestigious soccer prize called the Golden Boy, has attracted the ire of Taylor Swift fans over comments dismissing the singer's music that he may not have even made.
Every year, the Golden Boy is awarded to a young footballer that a panel of experts are tipping to excel in the future. Balde, who plays for Barcelona and the Spanish national team, is among this year's nominees but has seen his chances of winning take a hit after a group of Swifties launched a social media campaign aimed at harming his place in the contest.
The fan effort dates back to May, when purported excerpts of an interview with Balde began circulating. When the left-back was asked about his music taste, according to the quote, Balde made it clear he wasn't a fan. "Do I like Taylor Swift? No, I don’t like her music." However, there's no record of the interview online: the quote has been attributed by some to a GQ interview published three months ago. However, Balde doesn't actually mention Swift in the video, but says he does listen to Burna Boy and lots of reggaeton.
Despite a lack of evidence for Balde's quote, Swift fans have put their energy into ensuring a rival player, Jude Bellingham, wins instead. “Hey Swifties! We can’t let this Balde guy win the golden boy award. Vote for Jude Bellingham here,” the original campaign caption wrote.
At the time of writing, Bellingham has just under 50% of the votes, with Balde trailing behind on 27%.
Unfortunately, this isn't quite the blow to Balde's chances as some might hope. The public vote only determines who makes the cut when the longlist is trimmed to a smaller pool of names. Since Balde is sitting comfortably at No.2, he's likely to progress to the final round. The actual winner will be decided by a panel of journalists at a ceremony held in November.
Previous Golden Boy winners include Leo Messi, Kylian Mbappe, and Wayne Rooney, all of whom wouldn't dream of stepping onto the pitch without blasting "Shake It Off" in their headphones.