It has been well documented in recent years that sport as a whole is missing something that is vital for the future. Without the proverbial ‘role model’, sport in all forms will begin to take a severe nosedive. And judging by the antics on and off the sporting fields this weekend, it seems we are no closer to finding iconic figures for our young sporting hopefuls to idolise.
Friday night saw England’s footballers face Montenegro in an all important Euro 2012 qualifier. Fabio Cappello’s side managed to tally up that all important point they needed to guarantee them automatic qualification into next summer’s finals. But it was the on-field actions of one Wayne Rooney that made the Saturday morning paper headlines. With his side 2-1 ahead and looking almost certain to close the game out, Rooney was red carded 73 minutes into the match for kicking out at an opposition defender. All this came after a day of controversy for the Rooney family, after his father and uncle were arrested on suspicion of involvement in an alleged betting scam (I wonder if the pair had backed Wayne to be sent off on Friday?!).
There is no question as to Wayne Rooney’s ability as a football player and he is undoubtedly the spearhead of the English national side, but as a role model to millions of aspiring young players, is Wayne Rooney setting the wrong example? Granted, the sending off came on the back off a day to forget and the strain of what went on with his family must have been playing on his mind, but he simply has to realise his position in the modern game. Rooney could do a lot worse than take heed of former England strikers Sir Bobby Charlton and Gary Lineker, both of whom were famously never cautioned or sent off in their illustrious careers.
However, it is unfair to lay all the blame at the door of Wayne Rooney and at footballers in general. I mean, England’s rugby lads’ halos have been noticeable by their absence of late. Mike Tindall, Courtney Lawes and Manu Tuilagi have all been caught up in antics during England’s now notorious 2011 World Cup campaign. As has been widely reported, Tindall, who married Zara Phillips in Edinburgh this year, was caught on CCTV in a Queenstown nightclub chatting to another woman.
Lawes, in a similar fashion to Wayne Rooney, was banned for 3 matches for violent behaviour during England’s victory over Scotland, and Tuilagi was fined £3000 for jumping off a ferry in Auckland on Sunday. Not exactly a World Cup to remember for the right reasons.
The role model in sport is becoming ever distant. But who is to blame? Do we solely blame the the individuals responsible for their actions, or are we the media partly to blame, highlighting and speculating about every move these athletes make? For example, who would have thought up until recently that Ryan Giggs was a poor role model? Until his personal life came out in the wash earlier this year, Giggs was the epitome of the sporting icon, a character for youngsters to aspire towards. But such is the power of the media in sport now that even the most admired of sporting characters cannot hide from the gaze of the press.
P.S. A special happy 40th birthday wish to former Scotland international and Preston North End midfielder Graeme Alexander. Graeme is one of only two outfield players to tally up over 1,000 appearances in English league football. Here, perhaps, is a man our youngsters should look towards idolising!