Sunday, 23 October 2011

The modern day footballer: a role model?

I remember a time when footballers did all their talking on the pitch and the media didn’t pick up on their behaviour off it. I’m not sure, but it must be a generation thing as when I was growing up, all the boys in my class at school idolised the star players in their supported teams. The players then warranted the shirts on their backs, gave their all and played with the passion that fans love to see. Today, footballers are being seen in a totally different light. Now it’s all about who’s earning the most money and causing the most controversy. It seems we are in an age where footballers are spending more time on the front pages of newspapers for their behaviour off the field, as opposed to the back pages for their footballing achievements.
When I was at primary school, with the likes of the World Cup in 1998 and Euro 2000, all the boys looked up to players such as David Beckham and Michael Owen – players representing the country at the top levels. All the Arsenal fans idolised the likes of Thierry Henry and the handful of Newcastle fans (yes, I never understood it either, although they did actually go to games!), Alan Shearer. Now who have kids got to look up to – the likes of Wayne Rooney and Andy Carroll; no thank you!
So I asked a couple of people which footballers they idolised growing up and here are some of the responses:
“Paul Merson” (an Arsenal fan)
“Gary Mabbutt and Tony Adams for defensive and leadership qualities as a defender myself, and Bees Paul Wilson for toughness, effort and leadership”
“Paul Merson, ‘Gazza’, Gary Bull, Darren Currie, Dennis Bergkamp, Ian Wright”
“David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Thierry Henry and Lee Frecklington” (a Lincoln City fan)
As figures in the public eye, I can’t help but think footballers should know they are looked up to by children, and thus, should behave accordingly. Obviously, they are only human and although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the Christmas or end of season party; as well as social events with partners, family or friends, the media will watch and scrutinise their every move in order to create a sensationalist story.
And now to the reason for writing this piece, the Barnet link. Last Saturday saw us finally win a match – a 2–1 home win against Aldershot Town. But talk wasn’t about the much-needed three league points, nor was it about the Kabba penalty, or the winner by an in-form Ricky Holmes – it was all about what occurred at the final whistle. I probably wouldn’t need both hands to count how many times I have witnessed incidents like this at Underhill; after all we are branded and prided in being a family club. But the 22-man brawl made for some entertaining viewing, particularly given we’ve not had much to celebrate or be remotely happy of, of late. Now I don’t know the reasoning for why this took place, but there were incidents throughout the match that must have fuelled the fire. Rumours continued all weekend as to what happened – verbal abuse, racism, physical contact and spitting – and this week some light has finally been shed on events.
One of our players, Charlie Taylor has been given a three-match ban for admitting to an allegation that he spat at one of the Shots’ players (following an altercation regarding remarks to Clovis Kamdjo and Steve Kabba); as well as both clubs being handed a £1000 fine for failing to control their players. I don’t think it matters whether you’re a footballer or not, but spitting is disgusting – whether that be intentionally at someone or just in its general act. He’d been on the pitch for only a couple of minutes anyway, so was there really any need for him to get involved? It makes no difference as to whether you’re playing in the top flights or anguishing in the lower leagues or below, the kind of behaviour is just not on and completely unnecessary. What sort of message is it sending out to kids that are watching? Although in this case the incident was only picked up after analysis of the match dvd – the referee and officials didn’t see so I can only imagine, neither did anyone in the crowd – that but that’s besides the point! We may not be of a similar stature of the clubs and players often in the papers for their ‘bad’ behaviour, but I’m sure there are fathers that take their kids to Underhill who do idolise the squad – I remember when I was younger, a lot of my favourite players were Bees! In my opinion, the FA have reacted accordingly, and really we can have no complaints about the repercussions.

I know it’s nowhere near the same scale, but the incident reminded me of the several El Hadji Diouf has committed throughout his career: in 2002, when we accused at spitting at a West Ham fan whilst warming up for Liverpool, or 2003 when during a televised Champions League fixture, he spat at a Celtic fan. Then there’s the two incidents in 2004 whilst playing for Bolton, he spat at an 11-year old Middlesbrough fan and then went on to spit in the face of Portsmouth player Arjan de Zeeuw. Then there’s the other altercations he’s been involved in – racism to a ball boy, taunting QPR’s Jamie Mackie whilst lying on the floor with a broken leg and then numerous driving offences. Then there are the players who constantly cheat on their partners, whether it be for money, random girls out of the spotlight or other players’ partners. Why would anyone growing up aspire to be a ‘player’ or ‘animal’? Surely these overpaid prima donnas realise it’s not only their club’s reputation on the line, but their own as well? Why some of them go out of their way to tarnish their names despite their footballing ability is beyond me. If I was a young boy growing up in this era, there is no way I’d want to emulate the modern day football. I haven’t even mentioned Joey Barton, but there is yet another example (or lack of it)…
Which leads me on to the poll for this piece. After the success of the previous one, I asked readers this time round: Are today’s footballers role models? The results are shown below.
I don’t think it’s any real surprise the general consensus is a resounding ‘no’. What with several incidents highlighted above and all those we don’t yet know about, it is obvious that footballers aren’t the well-respected figures they once were.

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