Should We Regard Footballers as Role Models?
After the recent Ched Evans saga, footballers have been placed under more scrutiny than ever before. But as Ann-Katrin Daflis asks, should society consider them in such high regard in the first place?
Sure, football stars are exceptionally talented in one of the most popular sports in Europe. They are young, successful, healthy and represent some of society´s ideals. However, do these qualities automatically qualify them as role models and is it even fair to expect them to act like one?
If the role model capacity was to be considered on grounds of athletic achievement only, yes, you could argue that they are role models. Often, it is because of them that kids get away from their games consoles and out onto the field. According to government statistics, around a third of 5-10 year olds, and about half of 10-15 year olds actively play football in the UK. Motivating children to be active has many advantages: endurance, discipline and teamwork being the most important. And it is those principal values that the footballers often stand for. Apart from the occasional ear-biting incident or mother insults, that is.
But then again, as media attention does not just focus on a footballer´s performance on the field, it is hard to ignore things that happen off it. No matter how much footballers are portrayed as being heroes or demigods for getting that match-winning goal or making that impressive save, they are actually humans. Young adults, to be precise, who have come into fame and exceptional wealth. So, it is understandable that not everyone can handle it well. This does not excuse some of the behaviour of course. After all, acting in an inhuman way like Ched Evans has, cannot be excused. Wealth at such a young age serves as a reason for certain excesses, such as the incident where German international and Borussia Dortmund player Marco Reus, who drove around in an Aston Martin without a driver´s licence. Ironically, during that time he also was the face of marketing campaigns for a car company and a petrol retailer.
They are not all bad people though, an example being Chelsea player Didier Drogba. He has been African football player of the year numerous times, captain of the Ivory Coast´s national team and a two times Premier league golden boot winner. But he used his fame to campaign for the end of the Ivorian civil war, as well as promoting several African development aid projects. He is a footballer whose actions are worthy of our admiration.
The question really is: do footballers have a special responsibility to behave well? And here, I think, their role as entertainers sets them apart from politicians, CEOs and the like. Their job description is not to make decisions for society or to take care of hundreds of employees. They are hired as professional athletes. Now, it is undeniable that due to the media attention they have a certain influence; otherwise they would not be hired by companies to face up advertising campaigns. But, again, they do not hold power over future society´s policies. So if they mess up, they will have to face the consequences of law enforcement, the reports of the press and so on, whereas, if a politician shows a lack of moral consciousness in his or her private life, people will automatically question their fitness to lead.
In my opinion, footballers ideally should behave well seeing as they are such an influence on children. But they should also be given some leeway in their private lives by society as a whole.