Glory, fast cars, underwear modelling and scoring from a direct free kick is in, teamwork is out. Football culture is broken, and soccer schools have a lot to answer for.
Do you remember the popular kid at football training? The number 7?
His Dad was mates with the manager? He had spikey hair, a girlfriend and trials for West Ham?
The kid who the supply teacher mistakenly called ‘Pass,’ because that’s all the other kids constantly shouted at him. You know the one! He had the latest football boots, blonde highlights and supported Manchester United.
He probably works at sports direct now, but that’s beside the point.
This kid was emblematic of everything wrong with English football culture today. Not that he single-handedly oversaw the transformation from a sport with modest roots, integrity and passion to a sport corrupted by fame and money, if anything he was a victim of it. But he and his Dad still think Ronaldo is better than Messi, so that kind of speaks volumes.
Kids aren’t buying into the ‘beautiful game’ anymore, they’re buying into whatever hair style Neymar has this week and the idea of having a personalized licence plate with their squad number on it. Swag has eclipsed class.
Fame and glory. The emphasis is on scoring goals, getting the girls and putting it on Instagram. It’s ruining the way the general public perceive football on a cultural level.
Manchester United’s star summer signing Memphis Depay caused a stir recently by turning up to training in a flashy Rolls Royce convertible. Modesty has been forgotten in the game and it needs to be reclaimed.
It starts early on with kids. They’re taught to score and they forget to pass. Speaking from personal experience, having spent time training with various soccer schools at a young age, it’s a problem.
There is no sense of trying to find your own style in these academies and trials, if you were chubby, you went in goal, if you were tall, you went in defence, and if you scored goals and nut mugged someone, you got the award.
Before you assume that I was the fat kid, I wasn’t, I was actually one of ones who scored goals, which if anything put me off even more.
Scoring goals is great, to be able to do it consistently means you are gifted. But I would argue that just as much skill is required to make interceptions or gather the ball safely as a keeper.
Being in a team should mean that you work as an intricate machine, 11 parts of an engine, none more important than the others. Being in a team means you should share the modesty as well as the glory. This is what football culture is missing.
You would have thought some of the most high profile players in the football would realize this, and do what they can to promote and emphasize the importance of understanding what being in a team means. But no.
Having been bored enough to watch the recent Wayne Rooney documentary, ‘The Man behind The Goals’, I was shocked to see that Wayne actually full on snubbed his Son’s suggestion that he would like to be a goal keeper one day. Albeit light hearted initially, Wayne went on to say that he told his son that he should be a striker. Great. Forget your man between the sticks, he’s not important, it’s all about the striker.
The same thing happened in the Ronaldo film trailer, where he again snubbed his son’s wish to be a goal keeper. Why?
Following in your Dad’s footsteps is a nice sentiment, and I can understand if both Rooney and Ronaldo want their kids to experience success. But the lines have been blurred by what success means in football now. Does success mean scoring goals? Is there or should there be such thing as individual success in a team sport?
Football is about glory after all, but not about individual glory, and that’s the key difference.
Arsenal manager Arséne Wenger has voiced his lack of enthusiasm for individual accolades such as the Ballon D’or, arguing that the badge should be on the end of praise, not the individual.
The problem is that the kid who doesn’t score goals at a grassroots level doesn’t get noticed. Despite maybe having potential as a centre back or another less glamorous role. As a result of this, advanced soccer schools are jam packed with wingers and strikers who are distracted by glory.
Long gone are the days of players like Tony Adams or Paul Gascoigne, players who knew what being in a team meant and whose passion would resonate with the entire nation.
We need to start looking past goals as a way of measuring who the best is. Football needs to stop being about hair gel. David Beckham-itis is an epidemic. Please pass the ball.