Are Footballers Stupid In A World Where No Talent Is An Earner?

Antony HerbertAnalyst IIIJune 9, 2010

MORULENG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 07: David Beckham looks on during the friendly match between England and Platinum Stars at the Moruleng Stadium on June 7, 2010 in Moruleng, South Africa.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Former Emmerdale star (and wife of Harry Kewell) Sheree Murphy has gone on the defence of footballers this week by proclaiming that they are not as thick as PR guru Max Clifford say they are.

It is true that through years of hilariously dim comments, accompanied with the possible jealousy from those who had to get a ‘real’ job, as a collective footballers have gained a negative reputation.

They are regarded as holding a single figure amount of brain cells and are unable to emerge with any form of intellectual dialect.

This is a regularly reinforced stereotype.

Coming from a school more renowned for sports than academics I can, at times, see a point to those who posses this view.

Only a handful of students were expected to achieve success academically, but various pupils would be thrust into competitive action by being highly accomplished on a court, pitch or pool.

Footballers get a great amount of ridicule due to their area of expertise not being regarded as traditionally intelligent.

Whilst studying psychology I came across a theory called ‘multiple intelligences’, which essentially claimed that different people often possess different forms of intelligence.

Seven alternating areas were highlighted. These ranged from the expected linguistic and logical-mathematical forms of intelligence, but also took into account areas such as the social, the self motivating, the musical, the spatial and with respects to this article the bodily-kinaesthetic.

For someone to be bodily- kinaesthetic means they are able to process knowledge through bodily sensations, essentially, a person able to increase their intelligence through body movements. This allows them to predetermine what will happen next, and what will produce the greatest level of performance.

This proposed area does not rely on the ability to speak the Queen’s English, or know how to solve a complicated mathematical equation. Instead they may draw upon other forms of intelligence to aid their knowledge. An intrapersonal aspect of intelligence which suggests that self motivation is key can be helpful.

Footballers are required to know how the game works. They are expected to work both as an individual and as a team member at a level that epitomises excellence. The competitive nature of the game means that they must know how to work with other people, whilst at the same time believing in their own unique skill set.

Yet sadly this form of intelligence is valued like it should be, as the media seem intent on providing continuous glimpses into the lack of traditional intelligence that the likes of David Beckham possess.

A heavily popularised comment from Beckham emerged this year when he proclaimed that ‘I definitely want Brooklyn to be christened, but I don't know into what religion yet.’

This could have been born out of religious ignorance, (after all how many modern parents care or know much about the word of God) yet for the most part the media saw it as absolute stupidity.

Certain quotes seem to have been misplaced and misunderstood in the media’s intent of highlighting the intellectual inferiority of footballers.

Ron Atkinson this year confessed that ‘I never comment on referees and I’m not going to break the habit of a lifetime for that prat’. It appeared on countless lists of silly quotes from footballers. It was regarded as a clumsy thing to say.

I on the other hand saw it as straight to the point sarcasm. He has made his opinion on the referee clear, leaving as little comment as possible to do this. He is proclaiming that he will not waste his time commenting on someone who does not deserve the attention. Yet he has still made a subtle dig.

Sadly some players are able to undo any upturn in the opinion of footballers with ludicrous remarks. When Ruud Gullit reflected upon a match by saying that his team had ‘99% of the match’ before following this with ‘it was the other three percent that cost us’, you know the claws will come out.

It is too easy to demean a footballer because we expect them to not encompass common sense. For a lot of players this viewpoint is probably true. 

Yet footballers don't necessarily need to be numerically astute. These features are all left to the people around them; the referees counting the ninety minutes, and the management seizing opportunities from predictions of points or goals.

There is nothing therefore to stop a footballer focusing, or only needing to be adapt in one area of intelligence. They may lose skills once learnt in other areas, but these would have become dormant and irrelevant areas due to their lack of occurrence in the world of football.

Of course some people will always judge the intelligence of footballers based on the comparative performance of people in jobs where academic ability is key.

Is it really fair after all that someone who spends a large chunk of time learning the intricate details of the human body to become a doctor, is paid only a tiny percentage of what a footballer earns?

Doctors save lives and footballers don’t. It is an easily stated fact.

In response to this you know that some youngsters will want the easy way out. If they can kick a ball then whats to stop them pursuing a career as a professional footballer. It is in much the same vain of those who jump on the reality TV bandwagon.

Although with footballers at least there is some talent involved.

It is up to the coaches and the teachers from an early age, to encourage and instill upon the youth of today the responsibility and hard work that must come with building a fortune in football.

Without it you know that many will fail to ignite a successful career and be left to stack shelves and pick up trash.

It would  be nice to see more of the Daily Telegraph reading Graeme Le Saux’s emerge into football. They could rebuild a reputation built upon more rounded idols. Yet as long as the beauty of action on the pitch is applicable that will not be a necessity.