Tabloid readers forget the positive side of footballers
Revelations fuel an often inaccurate opinion
Here we go again with another overpaid, bigheaded footballer …plays away and thinks he is so secure in the belief that his money will buy silence…silly deluded plank…When are these big heads going to realise that they are not wanted for their looks (certainly not in the majority of footballers) but for the revenue these women can make off them….what a bunch of t******….Will they ever learn….. (The above quote is taken from a response to the Rooney story on the News of the World website).
It has been a bad week for Wayne Rooney, this much is clear. Perhaps more importantly it has been a bad week for our illusions of football. We have taken another step towards the realisation of disillusionment. That our heroes are no less human, no less flawed and no less horny (in Wayne’s case) than you or me.
Footballers are on a pedestal; they are treated as role models not because of their behaviour, character or demeanour, but because of their skills, money and lifestyle. But this pedestal, this gold-plated stage they are placed upon is simply in our minds.
It is the English way, our warped mantra, not just applied to sports stars but politicians, actors, anyone who we deem to be worthy of celebrity status: “Build them up to knock them down”
Rooney is not a God, he is certainly not a saint, and he is a sinner, just like we all are. Sure we don’t all pay for sex with prostitutes or cheat on our wives (though many do), but that may be partly due to the fact that we are or were not paid £100,000 per week aged 22 for kicking a ball around a pitch better than an English youngster has arguably ever done before.
It is Tuesday, and Wayne’s story of misadventure is three days old. The Daily Mirror has dedicated five of its first seven pages to the story. We hoover these stories up like coke in a VIP section of a club. It is a Neanderthal system of economic gain: A paper traps a player, there is moral outrage, papers sell. The tabloids do not care whether the reaction is anger towards the player, sympathy for the partner or despair for the illusion. Papers still sell.
But maybe, just maybe, we can get to a stage where the moralistic vitriol the papers spout isn’t all we believe about footballers.
Last month Chelsea launched the Chelsea Foundation, an independent charity to expand its current work. Chelsea already raise £1.5million per season for charities. Arsenal raised £820,000 for Great Ormond Street hospital last year. Aston Villa have Acorns Children’s Hospice on their shirts.
Simon Morgan, Head of Community at the Premier League, reports that the 20 Premier League clubs have invested £111.6million in the last three years in charitable projects. This is 3.7% of turnover.
Individually there is a similarly positive picture. Didier Drogba has pledged £3million to build a hospital in the Ivory Coast. Craig Bellamy has invested £650,000 in projects in Sierra Leone. Wayne Rooney has recently become an official Ambassador for SOS Children’s Charity. The examples are far too numerous to list.
But are these not players we have been told to despise? Didier Drogba, isn’t he moody, isn’t he the summary of all that is wrong with foreigners in the Premier League with his histrionics. And Bellamy, isn’t he disruptive and badly behaved? And Rooney, doesn’t he go around sleeping with hookers?
These players are not angels. In fact some of them, Rooney included, are immature and at times immoral. This means that they should not be role models for our children, but parents can ensure that, not the players. It also doesn’t mean that they should be demonised
The reason tabloid newspapers do not shriek “Premiership player caught doing charity work” is because it does not sell copies. I desperately hope that 99% of the people reading the revelations understand this. Judging by their comments, I fear that this is far from the case.