Footballers – Do they deserve respect?
Football is a TV show and footballers are the lead performers, normal people with extraordinary lives who are dissected and portrayed as disloyal, greedy and lacking any ethics. Players are seen as using their wealth and fame to feed their self-indulgent needs to go hand in hand with their bad-boy image both on and off the pitch.
It is this image that is constantly scrutinised by both the watching public and the media who influence many. These individuals are not only seen as idols but also someone they can imitate in terms of lifestyle and behaviour.
Leading names in the game have been involved in some embarrassing on and off-field scandals, but does this mean all footballers are bad and are not worthy of our respect? Few would argue otherwise when high profile players are constantly splattered on front pages of every newspaper for casual infidelity, falling out of bars drunk in the early hours and driving offences that have proved fatal. Let’s not forget on the pitch, where it sometimes seems that players have a licence to do as they please and act out as much thuggish behaviour as they like with the knowledge that they will not be prosecuted for it.
Living in a consequence-free environment
Household names such as QPR’s Joey Barton and Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, both convicted of violent conduct and Chelsea’s John Terry recently found guilty of racially abusing a fellow professional. All three were handed a ban along with a fine and nothing more. This is where the double standards come in, if you and I were to do the same on a night out or at work, not only would we lose our jobs but the police would intervene and there would be repercussions at the end of it.
This leaves many to believe footballers live in a consequence-free environment as they receive preferential treatment by both the law and those who are in charge of the game. What many footballers seem to forget is, what they say or do can so easily be embraced by some fans as acceptable behaviour. It’s important for this reason that these footballers are able and willing to accept the link between their actions and consequences.
These ugly and unfortunate incidents have not helped improve the image of the game and its players in the watchful eyes of both the die-hard fan and those who dislike and resent the sport. What the watching public and the harshest of critics seem to forget is that these men have made huge sacrifices in their short lives to get to where they are. Not only do they lose out on their youth, but also have to move away and miss out on a family environment. Newcastle United defender Mike Williamson explains: “I was 17, playing for Torquay United, when I found out that Southampton were interested in me and within two days of finding out, I was sat in a flat in Southampton alone. It was scary to say the least.”
Taking huge risks
They are left to fend for themselves whilst taking huge risks with their lives by dedicating and committing their future to a game that could make or break them, thus missing out on vital education that would have compensated for them not making it. If they happen to make it, it doesn’t just end there. Further hard work and commitment is required to continue on and to stay ahead of the pecking order.
Do footballers deserve respect? I would have to say yes. Taking into consideration the personal sacrifices and the sheltered lifestyles they are forced to live because of constant attention from the media, who are on a ruthless mission to tear them down at every given opportunity. They are simply targets waiting to be preyed upon, harassed and every move closely scrutinised and any bad word spoken or bad action performed will be reported for all to interpret as they wish. They are also forced to spend most of their lives in a controlled environment and simply not allowed to enjoy privacy that would allow them any peace or freedom.
Footballers have to apply their trade in a hostile environment that involves the consistent verbal and personal abuse they are bombarded with during games from opposing fans. If any of us were subjected with the same colourful language at work, not only would we be emotionally affected but also offered counselling. Who can forget the odd incident of physical abuse, highlighted in the recent unprovoked violent assault on Chris Kirkland by a Leeds United supporter. Would you put up with this at work? No. So why are footballers expected to take it on the chin and asked to get on with it? We must not forget and constantly remind ourselves that these are human beings just like you and me.
A stereotypical view
Only difference is, they earn a ridiculous amount of money for a few hours of work every week, but through no fault of theirs I may add.
The stereotypical view of a footballer (Chelsea players celebrating a late winning goal pictured) depicts a blend of arrogance and ignorance, with little or no consideration for the morals, ethics and rules that the rest of us abide by.
This is derogative and disrespectful to many genuinely good, reputable and well behaved players of the national game. Williamson adds: “It’s unfair that we are seen as people who have lost touch with reality and a minority have portrayed us all as rude and arrogant. This is far from the truth, we should all be taken on individual merit, all footballers want to be respected more than anything else.”
Footballers are never mentioned for the charity work they do behind the scenes. The money they raise, the charities they give their time to and the unfortunate people they help and yet these commendable efforts are never mentioned in any paper or magazine we pick up.
It is true footballers over the years have not earned the respect of many but to disrespect and tarnish them all with the same brush because of a certain few individuals and unsavory incidents in my opinion is unfair. Having said that, footballers can help their cause and their tarnished image by making an effort to act as dignified individuals when in the public eye and by thinking through their actions knowing their every move is being watched. Only by doing this, will they gain the respect they so truly deserve.