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Role Models in Sport

Wednesday 7th September 2011
In this Blog I would like to look at Role Models in sport, in particular role models within football. The reason I have chosen football is that it is our most prominant sport and has a huge amount of coverage in the press, therefore more children have access to stories, pictures and opinions.

Talking from experience, as a young budding footballer my idol was Ryan Giggs. Although I was not a Man U fan, he was the ultimate footballer to me, he was left footed, of Welsh descent, played left midfield. For these reasons I identified with him. I could imagine being like him when I grew up. I used to watch Match of the Day, in awe of the way he dribbled, he was incredible. I wanted to be like him, act like him and know everything about him. At my primary school during lunchtime no one else was allowed to be "Giggs". This was how much of an effect he had on me. Now here's the key thing, at no point did I care about who he is married to, what his kids names we're or how much he earn't per week. This is regardless of what has come out in the press in the recent future, at the time, he was my idol.

Fast forward 20 years, same club, same manager, same pressures on a young superstar footballer and we find ourselves with Wayne Rooney. Rooney is now a role model for millions of children across the country. He is from a working class background so children find it easy to identify with him, like I with Giggs. Rooney's behaviour on and off the pitch in the last few years has been nothing less than hurrendous. Swearing, spitting, elbowing, throwing tantrums etc, the list could go on. In the world we live in, children of any age can have instant access Rooney and the life he leads through Twitter, Youtube and any other "on-demand" type medium. Most children, for example could tell you who his wife is, what his childs name is and how much he earns a week. Growing up as an aspiring footballer, Rooney would not have planned to have led his life in the public eye, however, the minute you sign your first sponsorship deal, sell the rights to your wedding photos, have your own TV show and include "image rights" into your contract, you instantly give up the right to a private life when it suits. Therefore you are now a role model, like it or not. Once you financially benefit away from the pitch, I feel you have a moral obligation to lead your life in a way that will inspire youngsters. This is great when he is scoring amazing goals, the volley against Newcastle and the overhead kick against Man City to name two. Children will strive to be like that and on playgrounds across the country you will see children copying these wonderful techniques. However, these are the same children that that last season will have witnessed Rooney elbow a fellow player in the head for no apparent reason, and subsequently receive no punishment for his action. You may also see the same children who we're trying to overhead kick a goal 2 weeks ago, now go round and attempt to elbow people like their hero. These are the same children that dive, and roll on the floor feigning injury like the superstars we see everyweek on the TV. Amazing, but sadly true.

Here's the worse bit, the media, which remember have built up this man as the great white hope of Englands footballing future, are always willing and ready to offer a huge amount of column inches when this Saints Halo starts to slip. Unfortunately John Terry, Ashley Cole and Wayne Rooney sell more papers than Paul Scholes, James Milner and Stewart Downing.

So who is to blame in all this? I can't deny that going back 20, 30 even 40 years that professional footballers will have committed adultery, sworn, taken drugs etc but times have changed so drastically that in the modern world footballers live a very public life and I personally think that there is a moral code that should be adhered to by footballers these days.

In conclusion, children are very impressionable and pick up on every action of their heroes, some good, some bad. After reading this, next time you open a paper, read an article online or watch a football match, try to think how this will be viewed by the future generations as they aspire to be like their heroes.
Craig Jones

Total articles: 2

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