London 2012 – Footballers Should be Taking Notes


Football has been exposed during this Olympics. The lack of professionalism, absurd financial financial frivolity and the attitudes this propagates are now clear for all to see.


In Plato’s Cave theory the men chained staring at the shadows on the wall of the cave accept these to be the real objects. It is only once one of the men escapes the cave and experiences reality that he can see the shadows for what they really are. He tells the remaining men, but they believe so blindly in the reality of the shadows that they kill the man who escapes.

For me at least, the London Olympics have been my escape from football. I’ve watched everything, from rowing to cycling to camp horse dancing, each of them incomprehensively different from the next but enjoyable nonetheless. I worry that returning from two weeks of submersing myself in a plethora of different sports that my fellow football fanatics will castigate me for the comparisons I’m going to make.

I’d be lying if I said that football didn’t take up nearly my whole mind when it comes to sport. I love it. It is the sport that I and so many others watch week in week out. It is exciting, gives us all something to look forward to at the weekends and something to talk about with builders, plumbers and guys from school you bump into in the pub. But it is also, particularly in England, flawed and is starting to lose its way on a number of levels.

Why is it that Jessica Ennis can sprint the 100m hurdles, high jump, throw the shot put, sprint 200m, long jump, throw the Javelin and cane the 800m all to an Olympic standard that the majority of people can only dream of; when Liverpool’s Stewart Downing can barely use his right foot? Downing is paid tens of thousands of pounds a week; Ennis’s earnings from her sport will barely touch this. Obviously this is a result of the economic system of the world – football is in higher demand and therefore the money flows to that demand… It’s still a shame though.

Olympians display a level of professionalism and respect for their sport that is so often glaringly absent from football. Did you see Victoria Pendleton jump off her bike and scream ‘YOU WHAT YOU F**KING W****ER?!’ into the face of the referee? Have you seen any athletes from opposing teams yell obscenities at each other or square up? Of course you haven’t. Everyone competing is in full appreciation of their place in the games and feels privileged to be there, why would they blight the name of their sport through acting like a nob? The degree of respect for sport and the Olympic Games themselves from the athletes involved is clear.

So why is it that footballers are so often seen tarnishing the name of a wonderful sport? Why can’t they treat their sport with respect, and acknowledge the fact that without it many of them would be working in their local chippy and driving a clapped out Saxo? Olympic athletes become entirely proficient in all aspects of their sport, it’s a real shame that not every footballer possesses that level of determination to become as fast, strong and skilful as they could possibly be. I’m a strong proponent of the fact that sports need characters to keep them exciting, but I don’t see why they can’t be characters who have trained to the point of being the best they can possibly be.

I sound like a moany whiney fool and I’m very aware of this, but what has happened to sport’s original philosophical basis in football? The reverence of competition and taking part, a lack of complacency coupled with a drive to achieve the seemingly unachievable and a pride and respect for the sport and its code of conduct. Ashley Cole was kicking up a fuss this week because he wants to be paid £200,000 a week to play for Chelsea, when was the last time he or any other footballers wanted to better their sporting ability for anything other than their paycheque?

Britain needs to use the surge in enthusiasm for sport to reassert the original sporting values of the Olympics into British kids. Use the positive role models from the games to distance them from the warped, money-hoovering caricatures of the footballing world. These men are the shadows on the wall; they are not the reality of football or sport en masse. The reality is to never be satisfied with your ability and to constantly want to improve. That is sport at its most real.


I study history. I like sport.

Discussion4 Comments

  1. avatar

    Couldn’t agree with this more. The Olympics have utterly shamed the scum that seems to make up the Premiership. Football takes a lot of skill but there isn’t the commitment or dedication to it that we’ve seen in the games, and most of them are completely swayed by money. If you told the likes of Jessica Ennis or Tom Daley that they’d never get another penny, they’d still want to compete because they love their sport. If you offered a footballer an extra 10k a week to move to a rival club they’d sign the contract faster than they’d cheat on their wife. They don’t seem to remember that they’re supposed to be role models and it’s been so good to see decent, honest, hard-working athletes finally get the recognition they deserve. Long may it last.

  2. avatar
    Alexander James Green

    Great article; also noteworthy is that the atmosphere at Olympic football games was far and away nicer than any league match I have ever been too; (was considering writing something similar, but you beat me too it!)

  3. avatar

    I disagree.

    Jessica Ennis earned £1m in 2011 and competed 5 times. Her earnings will increase dramatically because of her gold in London. In comparison a high level footballer will play around 50 matches a year. Jessica Ennis is not underpaid.

    You claim that footballers often don’t have the same levels of determination as Olympians to be as good as they can be. This claim ignores the years of work footballers do in order to become professionals. Many Premier League footballers will have been with an academy since they were in primary school. Most academy players will never make it as a professional, and not because of a lack of effort. The ones that do make it are extremely talented and will have worked incredibly hard to have reached the required standard.
    Football is a much better example of the pinnacle of sporting achievement than the Olympic games. For most events the Olympic athletes aren’t the best possible in the world. The proliferation of most of the events is far too small.
    This is demonstrated with British gold medallist Helen Glover. She took up rowing after responding to an advert for taller women to try out for the Olympics. She has undoubtedly worked very hard in the four years since she took up rowing but the relative ease with which she became an Olympic champion give an indicator as to the lower standard of many Olympic sports.

    How would a footballer go about acknowledging that without football they would be ‘working in their local chippy’? Would Emmanuel Adebayor building a home for 100 orphans in Togo meet your requirements? Should Eton educated British Olympian Lawrence Clarke acknowledge that if it weren’t for athletics that he’d be probably be a banker or a Cabinet minister? Or is it just working class sportsmen (which footballers predominantly are) that should acknowledge alternative careers?

    You claimed Ashley Cole is demanding a salary of £200,000 a week. He has denied this.

    I’d also like to point out that Jessica Ennis decided not to bother with 100m hurdles. No injury, she just didn’t fancy it.

    This article is just populist nonsense. You can enjoy the Olympics without criticising football.

    Anyway, if you didn’t have football what would you talk to builders about?

  4. avatar

    Glad to see I got the response I wanted from somebody, you’ve elected to remain anonymous, which is fair enough I suppose. As somebody who loves football more than probably comes across in this article I’m pleased you’ve defended the sport. I stand by many of my points however.

    You demonstrate a clear interest in sport and a skill in writing so it’s a real shame you didn’t come to me or Rich as the sports editors and choose to write a response article which could have been a valuable contribution to the London 2012 series!

    I completely see your side of the argument, impressive research for sure too, so why not give writing for the scene a go? It’s certainly a more respectable and credible way to present your opinions than leaving a lengthy anonymous comment at the bottom of an article. You should take pride in your opinions.

    Get in touch

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