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An Olympian feat to stay sane?

By Mark Burke



Often, very soon after a big sports event there is reaction and comment that, when looking back seems to be part of a mass hysteria, people caught up in a fog of general opinion and clouded judgement.  

When the fog clears is the time to calmly take stock.  That's why it's really interesting as an ex-footballer to see the reaction to the Olympics. 

I think this time, like maybe no other in recent memory, the Olympics has really served it's purpose.  Truly celebrating the human spirit and what can be achieved both by those performing but also the joy it can spread to the spectators, a magnificent achievement.  

A common theme amongst many in the media and the general public is that the Olympians have shown Football and it's footballers up for what they are - namely overpaid pampered spoiled prima donnas, yes all of those things.    

As an ex-footballer who will always defend footballers you would probably expect me to disagree on this. But you know what?

They are right, footballers are to some extent, all of the above but the question I ask is: Who's fault is that?   

Do you really blame young men who because they are good at football from an early age are welcomed inside the 'Football Bubble' some never emerging and living their whole existence inside the artificial atmosphere that the football world creates.  

Young men who at a tender age are presented with large amounts of money and attention and shielded from the people outside of the bubble.   

You cannot blame the players for the amount of money awash in the game.   I think the feeling is that the players don't realise how lucky they are but I can tell you that this is absolutely not true.    

If you were to actually met a Premier League player socially and asked him what he thinks of the wages he is getting and he was truthful with you he would say; "Do you know what I can't f#€;&g believe it but it's great!"   

These are young lads from normal places just like you are who have been placed upon a pedestal by guess who ? YOU!!    You put them up there and worship them and tell them they are great.   

The vast, vast majority of players are decent and honest and realise their good fortune.    There are always people in every profession who let the good name down but I honestly think players should be applauded for their behaviour in the main.    I'll tell you why and you can make up your own mind.

 If you cast your mind back to when you were about 19 or 20 think about what you were like at that age, the things you did, the things you said, the things you said and did with the opposite sex (you know what I mean)    

All the scrapes, the nights out, all the usual daft things you did as a young person. Think about the maddest person in your group and the things they did.  

I'm going to become your own personal Magic Genie and give those people, yourself included £50,000 per week, no let's make it a more modest figure, say £10,000 per week, a very fast sports car, expensive clothes that you dont have to pay for because the shop owner likes having you in his shop, I'm giving you free entry into all of your towns nightclubs, envious looks from the boys and lustful looks from the girls.  

Sounds good doesn't it?   

Do you think your head may be turned, at least for a short while? Go on admit it, until you come to your senses and realise it's all temporary and it's not you they like, envy or want but your lifestyle, you might go a little crazy.  

Throwing all of those rewards and temptations at a young mans feet is like throwing a Rottweiler a juicy steak and telling him to save it for later.   I hear stories of young players at Premier League clubs who play ten games new contract, new car maybe two, new house, tattoo sleeve on their arm and off they go into the land of make believe.  

I know coaches who are exasperated with it all, trying to get the youngsters down out of the clouds. But this 'fever' usually doesnt last and most players come to their senses.    But I believe that it's something the players, as young men will and in some ways HAVE to go through.   

It's only normal to lose a sense of reality if treasures like that are thrown at young men. Of ourse they will go crazy for a short while.   I'm amazed we don't hear more stories of players largesse. In the main footballers are extremely well behaved. 

The Olympics has made people think about things, what sport actually means and the ethos and the spirit but the next time you see a story of a young player in a scrape or he let's himself down off the pitch, try not to judge him too harshly, count to ten and imagine yourself in that position, at that age and maybe give him a break?