Talk to anybody who doesn’t follow football and their opinion of football and the footballers who make a fortune from the sport couldn’t be lower. Engage with a sceptic and the levels of disgust levelled towards the game and those that inhabit it couldn’t be greater. The World Cup and England ’s embarrassing display has brought this ill feeling to the fore. The mass of high profile affairs has again tarnished the reputation of football and the footballers, from John Terry to Ashley Cole , from Peter Crouch to Wayne Rooney . Yet, whilst there have been plenty of articles written about the failings of professional footballers do we as a society ignore their positive contributions? From charity work to mentoring, perhaps some footballers aren’t the devil incarnate.
One case that has highlighted the positive contribution that footballers can create is that of the inspirational Jack Marshall . Jack Marshall is five years old and has been suffering from a severe case of cancer, he is an avid Manchester United fan and football has been something of a relief for him during his times of hardship. He has not been ignored by the footballing community with his Twitter page accumulating just shy of 40,000 followers. Furthermore, it has not just been the fans that have taken Jack Marshall into their hearts, footballers and journalists have been quick to offer their support and time.
Examples include a touching piece by Oliver Holt for the Mirror recently, meeting his heroes Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand , and even Jack Wilshere wearing a wrist band during games with Jack Marshall’s name on it. Don’t suggest that the footballing world doesn’t care. A large percentage of football fans have been immensely critical of Ferdinand and Rooney for perceived misdemeanours such as missed drug tests and swearing at a camera but these stars couldn’t have been more open to meeting and encouraging Jack. In fact, when Jack Marshall met Rooney he said that:
‘I’d like to kiss you, Wayne. I think you are the best footballer in the world.’
Furthermore, football players do plenty of charity work which contradicts the horribly negative persona they have been tarnished with. Arsenal FC has spent the year raising money for Centrepoint, the largest youth homeless charity, all year with the aim of gaining £500,000 for the charity. There has been a large level of interaction between the club and the homeless young people yet large numbers of the public would be wholly unaware of these positive actions. Another area in which the club has excelled in its charitable contributions has been that of Bob Wilson’s bike ride to raise money for cancer and his Willow Foundation charity founded in 1999.
Charitable contributions and the foundation of charities is not simply for the clubs, much maligned footballers such as Craig Bellamy and Didier Drogba have created their own charities. Drogba in fact set up a charity in 2007 to offer much needed support for education and health projects in his beloved Africa. This is a man who has cultivated a reputation in the sport for poor sportsmanship, and primarily having a tendency to take a dive. Yet as we can see here, outside of the sport he is an incredibly generous and amicable man.
In conclusion I would argue that footballers don’t get the credit they deserve. As we have looked at throughout this article the players don’t hesitate in getting involved for good causes, such as Wilshere, Ferdinand and Rooney for Jack Marshall. Some players go a step further and found their own charities such as Drogba and Bellamy. Talk to any casual observer and footballers are only second to the devil in terms of evil, but perhaps if we delve a little deeper we will discover that perhaps footballers aren’t quite so bad.
Read more of George McNeil’s articles at This is Futbol
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