Saturday, 5 March 2011

Are footballers really role models?

The Golden generation, eh? They've let us down at every turn. Mind you, when it comes to being naughty they're up there with the best of them.

Last weekend's revelations that Chelsea's Ashley Cole shot a student on work placement at the club with an air rifle are only the latest in a long line concerning Cashley and his pals. 

There's John Terry (celebrity Dad of the Year 2009) who was stripped of the England captaincy for having an affair with Vanessa Perroncel, the ex-partner of his best pal and fellow England teammate Wayne Bridge.

Yup, I'd cry if he was my dad too.

Current England skipper Rio Ferdinand was banned from the game for eight months for 'forgetting about' a drugs test and he is one of the players involved in the infamous Ayia Napa sex tape romp. And let's not forget equal-opportunity shagger Wayne Rooney with his penchant for prostitutes both young and old.

This all seems par for the course if you play for England - it's just over 20 years since Arsenal's Tony Adams did time for crashing his car while drunk and Gazza's still struggling with his demons between spells in rehab and court.

But our boys aren't the only ones capable of a bit of extra curricular naughtiness now and again. The Australian Press is full of the St Kilda's 'Dikileaks' scandal after nude pictures of several players from the AFL club were posted on Facebook by a schoolgirl who claimed to have become pregnant by one of the stars.

If all that wasn't enough, super-agent Ricky Nixon then admitted to 'inappropriate dealings' with the girl after she claimed their friendship was based on a mutual interest in sex and cocaine.

In Brazil things have reached a whole different level. Married Bruno Fernandes, who was the captain of champions Flamengohas been charged with murdering his 25-year-old lover Eliza Samudio and feeding her body parts to his dogs.

Crikey. On second thoughts this makes Cashley et al look positively saintly, although that doesn't stop the hand-wringing when they cross the boundaries of acceptability, but to be fair it must be quite hard to know where those boundaries are when we have such a schizophrenic attitude to the behaviour of our sportsmen.

An oft-repeated lament is that there aren't any 'characters' any more. Today's sportsmen are too 'boring' more interested in annoying stuff like 'being professional' and 'winning' than being entertaining. It's not like back in the day when the likes of George Best and Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins ruled the roost.

Both of them were lionised by the country's testosterone-fuelled hacks for their off-pitch exploits at least until recently when it became apparent that being an alcoholic wife-beater was not a cause for celebration. Best and Higgins both touched the peaks of their chosen sports, but can it really be argued that either fulfilled their potential? 

Sportsmen 'refuelling' still gets the papers all excited; just think back to the 2005 Ashes series when Andrew Flintoff was hailed as much for his monumental post-series bender as for his exploits on the pitch itself. But where did all that drinking get him? Retirement through injury aged just 32. 

Arise, Slur Freddie

Now, let's be honest, there are six billion people crawling around this planet so it's little wonder some of them do bad things and as footballers are, amazingly enough, just people it's little wonder that some of them do bad things too.

In the wake of the St Kilda's scandal, former Australian treasurer Peter Costello suggested in his column in The Age newspaper that footballers are the wrong people to be held up as role models. They don't get to play at the highest level, he says, because of their principles, but because they're good at sport. He went on to say: "Any right-thinking parent would quake with fear to hear that footballers were coming to their daughter's school to give a little bit of inspiration."

Costello got a lot of stick from the sporting community for that last bit, but maybe the guy has a point. Instead of holding up sportsmen as role models, and then being massively disappointed when they go all human on us and display moral short-comings, perhaps we should just recognise and applaud their sporting talent and leave it at that.


Ash said...

You summed it up perfectly in that last sentence.

The unfortunate fact of the matter is that footballers and other sports people ARE role models, the question we need to answer is SHOULD they be role models.

I think both yours and my recent blog posts answer that pretty clearly!

Anonymous said...

moral shortcomings and acting like a human is one thing and then theres feeing your lovers hacked of body parts to a dog, also if you walk in to a year six classroom and ask for examples of role models i can guarantee at least ten children will name football players and not one will name emmeline pankhurst, rosa parks or mahatma gandhi. does that sound right to you?