Footballers as Role-models? Really?!
I don’t know why, but I am compelled to write this post on the so-called phenomenon that ‘footballers are role-models.’ This subject comes around and around and this week it has arisen again after Jack Wilshere was photographed (having his privacy invaded, by the way) smoking a cigarette in Las Vegas whilst on holiday, eight months after being spotted smoking whilst out on the town.
Firstly, quite why ‘young men drink, smoke and have fun in a swimming pool’ is an item worthy of news, is quite nauseating. In an age where the exposure of historical and far-reaching child abuse spills out of Pandora’s Box each week, where countries massacre civilian populations in the name of peace and laws get passed in Government which will have long-term effects on our society’s rights, tabloid, red-top newspapers skirt over it all, putting ‘celebrities’, sport-stars and artists on their front pages to chastise and judge. The 21st Century’s equivalent of the village stocks.
Agendas, grudges and click-bait – all rolled into a ‘news story’. As Football365 wonderfully exposed on Tuesday in their unmissable daily ‘Mediawatch’ column, what fits the agenda for one story, can be changed to fit another, entirely more suspicious tone the next. I include it below. It is quite brilliant (the part where a grown man is brought to task for drinking in front of an eighteen year old man is quite jaw-droppingly sanctimonious):
One interesting aspect of Neil Ashton’s attack on Jack Wilshere and Joe Hart ‘tearing it up’ in Las Vegas was his accusation of Hart’s lack of professionalism prior to the World Cup.
‘At the Lions and Roses charity dinner on May 18, England’s head coach Roy Hodgson allowed his players to have a couple of drinks.
‘On one table, Gerrard and Lampard had half a glass of red wine poured for them and did not touch a drop. On another, far more boisterous table, Hart drank bottle after bottle of beer at a remarkable rate.
‘Sitting on the same table was Luke Shaw, a young man who cannot even drive yet, at his first official England function. At the time he was 18. What an example to set a kid.’
A reminder that this charity dinner was almost a month before England’s first match in Brazil.
In addition, it’s strange that Hart drinking ‘bottle after bottle of beer at a remarkable rate’ wasn’t reported at the time, particularly as journalists were invited to the shindig.
Thankfully, the Daily Mail did report on that evening, sending along a man by the name of Neil Ashton. What a coincidence.
So, what was Ashton’s reaction to the drunken debauchery that evening, and Hart setting a bad example to poor Luke Shaw?
‘England’s players behaved impeccably at the England Footballers’ Foundation dinner. In an era when it is so easy to casually criticise the players, this event, in football parlance, could be described as ‘a leveller’.
‘Every member of that squad, from captain Steven Gerrard and vice-captain Frank Lampard to Southampton trio Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Luke Shaw, understood their roles and responsibilities. It has to be said, it was pretty refreshing.’
It’s almost as if Ashton has altered his memory of that night for the sole reason of sensationalising these latest pictures. Next time the tabloids moan about getting insufficient access to England players, just remember this.
Source: www.football365.com 15/7/14 ‘MediaWatch’
Why on Earth are footballers elevated as role-models? Role models for who?! Children?! GTF out of here! If you are saying to a child, maybe your child, that a footballer is someone that they should aspire to be like, then frankly stop reading this blog here, this isn’t going to be the post for you.
I wholly appreciate that there is a debate about Jack Wilshere’s future at Arsenal Football Club and that he is in danger of wasting his potential. But is that a fair assumption to make? He is still a young man with another decade of playing football (you’d have to hope) and he’s suffered some really nasty, debilitating injuries. That, for me, is a debate for another time.
I totally agree that a child should be inspired to play like their favourite footballer and indeed should be encouraged to have the work ethic and focus needed to be a professional athlete; there’s nothing wrong with that at all, if that is what they want to do. I would love my daughter to like football enough to want to watch it with me or to kick a ball with me or her friends on a grassy field. I would be the proudest parent alive if she went on to play for Arsenal Ladies. My heart would swell to breaking point. But would I use a footballer as an example of a good role-model? Good grief no. I am happy to imagine me saying ‘look at how Wilshere passes the ball, or look at how Walcott times his runs, or how Giroud finishes with his left foot.’ But saying ‘look at how they live their lives, this is what you should do…’ No.
Sadly, we seem to be losing positive role-models in our society. More and more children are living in broken homes. It doesn’t affect all of them negatively, but in my experience, I have found that a lot of behavioral issues I encounter are caused by divorce or domestic upheaval. So some parents are sadly not fulfilling their roles as positive examples to be looked up to for their children.
MPs, well, where do I start?! Some of the people that we elect to guide and run our country have been shown of late to be expense-fiddling, sex offending, war-mongering, corporation-lobbying charlatans in an incestuous relationship with big business. These people should be the moral compass of society. Instead, they are more focused on stuffing their pockets and ignoring the will of the very people that elected them. That politicians are liars should surprise no-one. But the extent that the ‘one rule for us, one rule for them’ culture runs through Westminster is disgusting. Society gets the Government it deserves. Or so they say.
The Royal Family. Yeah, right. All are of course esteemed figures of morality and virtue, right there. So much so that The Independent reported on 8/7/14 that “The Royal Family is to be granted absolute protection from public scrutiny in a controversial legal reform designed to draw a veil of secrecy over the affairs of the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William.”
Church figures used to be role-models, I think it is safe to say that this is no longer the case; as the sheer amount of families affected by the systematic abuses of trust and position, across all faiths, can attest towards.
Now celebrities and athletes have this unwanted and unwarranted tag of role-models thrust upon them. Just thinking, off the top of my head, these are unsavory incidents that I can recall footballers being involved in:
– Filming group sex whilst on holiday and uploading it online.
– Drunkenly mocking Americans whilst in a bar on September 11th, 2001.
– Having countless affairs whilst married – these include: sister-in-laws, workmate’s partners, manager’s daughters and other ‘celebrity figures’ (possibly for extra publicity).
– Taking illegal recreational drugs.
– Owing thousands, if not millions of pounds due to gambling.
– Betting on games.
– Fixing the results of games.
– Shooting people with air-guns.
– Assaulting each other and members of the public.
– Avoidance of routine drugs-testing.
– Drink-driving, failing to stop for an RTC and death by dangerous driving.
– Group-rape and imprisonment.
– Affairs with prostitutes.
– Driving without a licence/insurance.
– Assaulting a fellow professional on the pitch.
The list, frankly, goes on and on and on, all played out, lapped up and often defended to the hilt by our often disgracefully compliant newspapers.
Other abhorrent incidents from other sports recently include:
– Systematic Performance Enhancing Drug abuse.
– Blood doping.
– Match fixing.
– Recreational drug use.
– Cheating to gain a preferential team result.
– Stealing intellectual property.
– Multiple affairs and too numerous to name broken homes.
– Posting sexual content online.
– Physical assault.
I am sure, most of you will agree, that these are not the actions of all athletes, footballers or sportsman in general. Some athletes, like Scott Parker, Jessica Ennis, Mo Farrah, Andy Murray, Jenson Button, Kieran Gibbs and Ian Poulter appear to be stand-up, professional sports-people and personalities, who are rarely, if at all, in the media for negative reasons or indeed anything other than for their sporting achievements.
We have seen small touches of loving humanity recently by the likes of Kim Kallstrom and Danny Ings; kind, inspirational interactions with children with disabilities. Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker and Mikel Arteta to name but two of the squad appear to be thoroughly decent men. Jack Wilshere’s devotion and support towards Jack Marshall, who sadly passed away at the age of six, and his family, was a very kind and heartfelt act that I am sure raised less column inches than the fact that Jack has dabbled in drinking and smoking. I would surely be shocked if the very scribes behind such personal diatribes were non-smoking teetotalers themselves.
I don’t want to tar everyone with the same brush. My point is, these celebrities – like actors, or singers, or musicians, or these athletes – whether they are footballers, golfers or jockeys, just shouldn’t be role-models for our children. To be honest, it is often hard to think of just who role-models should be, so I can only use my own as examples – My parents.
My parents who have been married for 33 years and have both had careers and jobs as I was growing up. My grandparents, who have supported me since I was born and I am sure, before I appeared. I have had child-minders and teachers from an early age; none of whom abused or seriously mistreated me. Some were better than others, but in general, they were pretty consistent educators and people I could learn from. My mother-in-law and (late and much missed) father-in-law in my later life became role-models. People who educate me about the wider-world, like Sir David Attenborough, have positively influenced my life and shaped my career as a college lecturer.
I fully appreciate that I am very lucky to have been raised in a relatively stable environment, within a loving, close family. I am all too aware a lot of people haven’t had this in their lives and perhaps these days this may be a rare luxury. And that is truly sad and says a lot about our society. I am in education to help teach people about a subject they hopefully like and as a professional, I realise that I may be seen as a role-model. It is up to me whether I am worthy of this position and I have to consider this through my actions both as a person and a teacher, both in a classroom and outside of it, i.e. on social media, by following the law, etc. I suspect my standing as someone to be trusted being in the (temporary care) of other people’s children would be lessoned if I had a social media page filled with pictures of me falling out of my clothes/a pub/a police station or swearing. I try very hard not to swear in my column, for example, or on Twitter.
Jack Wilshere, he of the cigarettes and those ill-advised, but blown-out-of-all-proportion comments about nationality (in my humble not the worst thing to say about nations and representation thereof, but it was perhaps a little clumsy), is certainly a role-model for his two children. That is on him. But he shouldn’t, in my view, be a role-model for other people’s children. In his position as a footballer, he should be a role-model for younger players who are learning their craft, and he should really perhaps set an athletic example by not smoking, as well as not kicking seven-shades out of the opposition and abusing match officials, but this is in a job context, not a personal one.
I know this has been a personal, hand-wringing post and I can of course only offer my own views on this subject. But to play the ‘You’re-supposed-to-be-a-role-model-moral-indignation card’ at famous personalities like Miley Cyrus for naked wrecking ball riding, Jack Wilshere for smoking a cigarette (or having the gall to relax on holiday with mates after ‘England crash out of the World Cup’), or Tiger Woods for sleeping with a heck of a lot of strippers is just absolutely wrong. Call them daft by all means. But they simply aren’t or shouldn’t be elevated as role-models. That isn’t their job. They aren’t raising your children. They aren’t setting that morality compass for your children to follow. That is your job.
Thanks for reading, I appreciate it is off-topic and very personal, but I needed to get it off of my chest.
I have been an Arsenal supporter since the 1990/91 season after being introduced to football, aged eight, during the Italia 90 World Cup. My favourite player as a young Gooner was Stefan Schwarz and I have a soft spot now for Theo Walcott.
I am a father and husband and lecturer in a Sussex college. I have written for Sabotage Times and am also a Real Oviedo shareholder.
I try to blog daily too – ‘GregCross82’s Arsenal Blog’ http://arsenalramble.wordpress.com/