Saturday, February 26, 2011

Grass roots football needs its heroes

Here is a humbling story. A proud and dedicated man tried his best to run a team for young boys in his area of Manchester. He's African, has no money, the parents of his players have no money, they lack kit and they can't afford to pay the pitch fees for a 3G pitch which has been paid for with local authority and sports industry funding. Some of his kids are on remand or in care and can't get to play. The parents of the visitors from a wealthy area stump up for the pitch when they are due to play, but this proves to be their last match and his team have to withdraw from the league.

Here's a shocking story. A 16 year old referee is reduced to tears as a result of the abuse he gets from parents and managers at a team in the same league. He is a keen referee, he had a marginal offiside decision to make that was disputed, but he doesn't have anyone running the line. He isn't prepared to put up with it any longer. The game is abandoned at half time.

Here's another depressing story. A 10 year old boy is struggling to tie his laces so his coach helps him. The referee swears at the coach and tells him to get a move on.

There is an appalling lack of perspective throughout kids football. The need to win at all costs, the shrill cheers of parents who think they're watching the European Cup Final, the dreadful treatment of referees, the coaching of gamesmanship (cheating), the poor quality of the pitches, the petulance of children following the example of the moaners, divers and over-celebrators by bringing their own versions of this to the game. I feel angry as a parent for bringing my sons into this environment. And I feel foolish for giving time as a volunteer to a sport where the efforts and endeavors of people like the African chap from Manchester, or the manager of our team and so many other people involved in teams and leagues seem to be doing so against a tide of lousy and loutish conduct.

But you can't let the bad guys win. It surely is worth maintaining dignity and standards. Not for our sake, but for the kids. Afterall, as Jim White asked in his book about kids football - who is it for?

POSTSCRIPT: The incident with the referee today is being investigated by the league and though I would like to say more about it, I better not.


Anonymous said...

It was ever thus, all these issues were the same when I was involved with junior football in Bramhall in the 90's. You are right though, don't give up and let the idiots prevail. The worst parental offenders tend to be the ones who are living vicariously through their sons and were probably abject failures themselves on the pitch. My lad played with the twin sons of ex city and spurs player, Neil McNab , who was a model of restarint on the touchline ( usually :))

Stuart Grimshaw said...

Have you seen the RespectFC campaign? ( Out of all the things they're planning on spending their money on is Respect Captains, people to keep the parents in line during matches.

For my part, I take Matt to matches, stand at the side & applaud goals from both teams, when they've finished, I ask if he enjoyed it. As long as his answer is "Yes", that's what I'll carry on doing.

We're lucky in that the league we're in, all the teams have signed the respect charter and there's never any bother, the refs don't get any stick (even when they do award their own side a pen in the last minute to equalise ;-) They're only under 7's right now but I've watched the older teams play and they have the same good supporters as we do.

Do your clubs sign the respect charter at the start of the season? If not why not suggest it to the league? Any parent that doesn't sign it can't come and watch the matches.

Don't give up, be the hero the kids need, not the one the parents deserve.

Michael Taylor said...

Oh yes, we're a Charter Standard Club, we sign up to all of this. My concern is that other clubs do but don't take it seriously.

Thanks for your supportive comments. It is usually good. Today has been a black day.

George Dearsley said...

Michael I have telephoned the ref concerned in your incident and left my best wishes and support on a message. Football NEEDS young refs and there are some very good ones. One 16-year-old took charge of Mellor's Fourth Team (open age) recenly at Hillcrest Road and did a great job. Don't let the idiots win...fine them and get them disciplined. That's the only way they will learn.