Sunday, 3 October 2010

Too Much Too Young: The dangers of money and fame for young footballers

First of all, apologies for the lack of blogging. It has been a rather hectic couple of weeks but normal service can now be resumed... hopefully.

There was an article about Ryan Giggs in The Guardian today from which there were some interesting ideas available for exploration. The interview offered a brief insight into how Giggs has managed to partner success on the pitch while keeping his private life out of the public eye. It is this unique talent, a talent lacked by so many footballers today, to maintain focus and ambition while not becoming preoccupied with the distraction of a huge wage and the media circus that surrounds the sport that is, for me at least, of particular importance.

Manchester United's 36-year old winger is the most successful player in British history and is estimated to be worth £24 million. Yet despite his nearly twenty years in the football limelight we barely know anything about Ryan Giggs the man.

The interview reveals, amongst various interesting facts, that Giggs was earninga mere £30 a week when he made his début for United. Needless to say he did not care. It is this point that was of most interest to me when I read the article. The Welshman is the antithesis to the mindset of so many modern footballers.

So often you will hear people comment that footballers earn too much money 'just to kick a ball'. This is only fair to an extent. There is masses of money in football. It makes sense that the salaries of the elite players reflect this. It is the same in any professions. That is the reward for being gifted with unique ability or for working tirelessly to reach of the upper echelons of your given trade.

It is not the top players earning big money that is the issue. It is the young players who also receive massive pay-cheques that is at the heart of the problem with modern day footballers.

The problem is that all this money has become a distraction that is too large for most up-and-coming players to avoid. The average wage of a Premiership player is (supposedly) £28,000 a week. The preoccupation that some players now appear to have with how much they are earning, especially in comparison with other players, can only harm their progress on the pitch.

The ludicrous sums of money being deposited into the banks of unproven young players by debt-ridden clubs can only be detrimental to their chances of fulfilling their footballing potential. A love for the sport can quickly be replaced by a love for money while their hunger to succeed diminishes in favour of larger pay-cheques and a thirst for the limelight. Young players can become complacent, their morals can become distorted and their sense of reality can be lost.

Despite all his accolades and silverware, Giggs' greatest achievement has been his ability to cope with the distractions and temptations available to the modern day footballer. He has refrained from a life of excess, he conducts himself impeccably at all times and his hunger for the game has not been filled by the money he has acquired along the way.

The article highlights how far removed he is from popular culture's image of a 'football star'. His face is not on billboards. His pictures are not in magazines. He plays football solely for a love of the game and a desire to succeed. It is an example that is rarely seen by most players at his level and it is one that ought to be followed.

The wider point that footballers in general earn too much money is a debate for another time. Yet the point remains, the amount of money on offer can only be dangerous for young footballers. Giggs' interview, and indeed his entire career, illustrates this point aptly. Attitudes and egos, which develop in accordance with the increased money on offer to them, hinder their on-the-field progression.

Thoughts, comments and opinions please...

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