As the dust settles on another footballer caught in the vice of social media, we yet again have to think about what our perception of footballers is. The football world more than any other sport, and maybe any other occupation, has huge pressure placed on it. There are vast amounts of money flowing through the game without any barriers which has increased the attention on the sport.
Recently Jack Grealish has been snared in another moment whereby a footballer has been criticised heavily. This is not the only time Grealish has been in trouble this year, having attracted media attention two other times. He has not been the only player, however, as we have seen Raheem Sterling and three young Leicester City players also receive media attention. We should not condone the acts of footballers, what we must ask is whether we should hold footballers in such high regard. Moreover, we constantly complain about the lack of characters in football compared to the 90s, but these players are doing the same as the players in 90s were doing, but under the constant pressure of social media.
Footballers in England are idolised and are in the public eye. Players like David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are quasi royalty in this country. What we must ask ourselves is, why do we, and why footballers should be held up as role models. Unlike by gone eras, footballers now command huge money, which in turn has risen our criticism, ire and admiration of them. Footballers, however are paid to play football. Nowhere in their contract does it stipulate that they should offer themselves as role models to other people.
Another question has to be asked, does anyone actually hold footballers as role models? It seems common knowledge that footballers have high wealth and often flaunt it in ways which many don’t agree with. So if many don’t hold footballers in such high esteem, then it seems wasteful for newspapers to print so many lines towards it. For many, it is common place for a footballer to pop up in the news for something they shouldn’t be doing. Most of us have realised that our favourite footballers aren’t perfect. Money has corrupted the game and social media has highlighted the faults that we had not seen in years past. Because of the incredibly high salaries footballers earn, we seem to place more importance on what they do. Yet we also don’t give much attention to players like Wilfred Zaha, who gives money to charity from his monthly salary, and Duncan Watmore who recently earned his economics degree.
Young footballers get paid huge amounts of money at their age, and are often under huge amounts of pressure, pressure that if they weren’t footballers would not be existent. These young players, often younger than 22 have the most media coverage outside our most revered players (Rooney etc). Often young players between 17-22 are given huge amounts of money, too early and too often which leads to mistakes. They have no guidance and are left without much authority. The clubs and managers must take a role in fathering these young players like a Ferguson or Wenger. Ferguson in his book, even references that before signing a player they would look at his family so he would know any character issues but also care for them in a pastoral sense.
Because of their lifestyle and occupation footballers will receive much more pressure and attention than anyone else. What do we expect? Young men will make mistakes, and with that money these mistakes will be in the full view of the public eye. These players never asked to be held as role models. We obsess over their mistakes because of their occupation and money, not necessarily their acts. Take away the money and the sport, then these men would just be like any other eighteen year old.
Football holds a huge precedence in our society. The nation’s favourite pastime is taken very seriously. The real reason we despise the foolish acts and immaturity of footballers is that we envy and desire their job but also take our support for our respective clubs seriously- maybe more seriously than the players. Footballers are highly paid athletes come celebrities. We need to realise that they have never pretended or been asked to be role models. They are paid to be play for our clubs. It is also a sad indictment that players like Zaha and Duncan Whatmore don’t get enough press. Footballers on the whole are not role models, they play football and make mistakes that us normal people make but in the spotlight of the public eye.