Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Olympians or Footballers

The Olympics this year have been a revelation to much of the country; people have found a new or rekindled love for sport, they have discovered a new patriotism and hundreds of thousands have been inspired by the athletes that have been performing on sport's grandest stage.  Quite rightly, many have hailed the Olympians as role models in the wake of the instant-fame culture we find ourselves in today.
Jessica Ennis wins heptathlon gold. (guardian.co.uk)
A group who have closely been compared with the athletes of this summer's Olympics is professional footballers.  In the workplace, on television and throughout society, the comparison between 'hard-working, passionate, humble Olympians' and 'lazy, over-paid, arrogant footballers' has been made in the aftermath of the Olympics and football has once again become a scape goat throughout Britain.

I may be biased but I really disagree with this ideology.

Manchester City win the marathon that is the
Premier League (telegraph.co.uk)
First of all, we must remember that even Olympians and footballers are still human and make mistakes.  Those mistakes are always exposed more than usual due the nature of their fame, especially in Britain, and it is easy to take notice of the bad over the good in these people.  For every footballer that sleeps with their team-mate's wife, splashes thousands of pounds on gambling and feigns injury to get ahead there are Olympians that throw games to get a better draw, compete having been found guilty of use performance-enhancing drugs and accuse each other of taking those drugs.  This is not to say Olympians are no good role models but they are not altogether perfect.

Secondly, consider the life of a footballer and an Olympian:

  • Footballers must dedicate their lives to train with a professional club from before they've left secondary school for a career than can last until they are 40, are traded between teams for millions of pounds as commodities, are hounded by fans when they put one foot wrong on the pitch and are hounded day and night through their career, and after, by the press.  Footballers often perform in their sport two times a week for the majority of each year and then throughout the summer.  Yes, they are paid more than the general Briton, but can the blame really be put on them for that?
  • Olympians dedicate the build up to an Olympics or championship to training, often for the most part of each day of the week, and put aside the rest of their lives for that time towards the event.  Often, athletes will have competed in a sport for as little as two years before performing in it with most competing in a maximum of three Olympics over 12 years.  Only the popular sports and athletes are paid well, mostly by sponsors, with some lesser known sports having to pay for training themselves.  There is only real coverage of athletics during the Olympics, during which, for two weeks, the media is pretty much focussed solely on it.
There are so many differences between the two groups of sportsmen and women and each athlete has a different background and experience of their sport.  The Olympics have been a great event and have lifted the whole country.  Hopefully its legacy will go on for years to come and inspire a whole generation, as the organisers set out to do.  But don't use these great role models as a way to attack football from another angle; leave the two as separate.

Either way, come Christmas, I still think those around the country will be more interested in the latest Premier League scores and the FA Cup Third Round draw than the latest winner of the long jump or 110m hurdles.