5 Common Stereotypes and Misconceptions Of The “Typical Footballer”

As players, we find ourselves falling into stereotypes that are now associated with being a “typical footballer”. The thing with these stereotypes and misconceptions are that most are wrong and they give all footballers a bad reputation. I am going to touch on a few of the more common ones below.

Misconceptions of a footballer: “Easy job”

“It’s an easy job. They just kick a ball around for 90 minutes.”

Wrong! Let me rephrase that for everyone.

It’s the DREAM job! We dedicate our lives to being ready for 90 minutes every week.

It is the dream for millions of young people but there is nothing easy about being a professional footballer. The work we have to put in physically and mentally is relentless. The sacrifices we have to make from such a young age are incredible. Having to perform day in, day out whilst the world eagerly awaits one slip up.

Social media leads people to believe that the life of a footballer is all glam and straightforward but players will only post what they want the public to see, so don’t think that what you are allowed access to on social media accounts, is the full picture of what it is like being a footballer.

Don’t believe everything you see and hear about professional footballers. Image by Graham Scambler

Stereotype of a footballer: “Immature”

We are young people living our dream. People at the same stage of life in other walks of life are able to get away with making mistakes and slipping up in their personal life, but those in professional football aren’t afforded that same leniency, unfortunately. It is what comes with being in the limelight but that doesn’t make it okay to hound the players for making mistakes in their lives.

The parties and the wild lifestyle that players supposedly live! Players are entitled to enjoy their downtime as much as the next person but we are professional athletes, who simply wouldn’t be in this position if this ‘party lifestyle’ was how we chose to live our lives. Players will be seen out partying and having a good time because we are not machines, we are human beings who enjoy the same things as everyone else but not every footballer is out partying at every opportunity.

Life is a journey and the life of a footballer is often lived out in front of the world. What is often seen as acting immature is sometimes just youthfulness but because of the scrutiny players find themselves under it comes across as immature and careless. Yes, players have a responsibility to show the next generation of aspiring footballers certain behaviours that are required, but we are also human beings who are growing through life and trying to enjoy it too.

Misconception of a footballer: “Immune to criticism”

As I said above, we are human like everyone else. We have feelings. We have to become hardened to what people say because if we don’t then we would never be able to block out outside noise.

That doesn’t mean that things don’t affect us though.

Social media has made it easier than ever to reach players and send abuse. Even if it isn’t the player that it directly affects, often family members will see it and it can be just as painful, if not more for them.

We have to accept that criticism is going to come our way but there are boundaries. It is part and parcel of being an elite athlete and most players thrive off of this and the banter that comes within games. However, there is a point where enough is enough.

When criticism comes in the form of hate and has nothing to do with performance is when I believe it has overstepped the mark.

I see it in the press and on social media daily, the same players are criticised over and over again for things OFF of the pitch as well as on it, whilst some seem to never come under the spotlight regardless of their performances on the pitch.

If someone approached you outside of work and verbally abused you for making a mistake, how would you feel? This can sometimes occur in front of our families and loved ones and as soon as we react and retaliate we are seen as the bad person!

During my time at Colchester United, I was one of the ambassadors for the Football In The Community scheme. However, many players do work off of their own backs within the community away from football. Image by Richard Blaxall

Stereotype of a footballer: “Bad attitude”

“Players don’t care”. If you could go into any changing room of a team that has just lost, you would realise that players care a lot more than people assume. Players are accused of only being interested in their paycheck because they don’t express their passion in the way others want to see it. Passion is something that every footballer has but how they express it is different from player to player.

It is easy to assume that players don’t care but remember that losing control, or getting wrapped up in emotion often results in bad decisions and performances. Body language and demeanours can give off mixed messages so I understand how it can sometimes look to fans but no one goes out onto the pitch wanting to lose or play badly. Yes, we are paid to play football but we ALL hate losing games of football and not playing.

As players, we have to be professional in all we do. Our job is to win games of football. If we aren’t winning games of football then our livelihood is on the line, as well as our reputation. I am still to meet a player who is happy with bad performances. Our whole week is built around winning games and everything is done in preparation for those 90 minutes. The sacrifices we make, our lifestyle, training, literally everything, so to have our desire questioned is always a tough pill to swallow.

A public falling out or disagreement doesn’t automatically mean that a player has a bad attitude. A difference in opinion, or not seeing eye to eye with others doesn’t just take place within football, yet when they happen people are led to believe it is down to their “bad attitude”.

Arrogance is often associated with footballers. Yes, there might be some arrogant players but I come across people outside of football on a daily basis that are also arrogant. Arrogance and a bad attitude aren’t exclusive only to footballers, they are common traits found throughout human beings.

People would be amazed at the number of footballers who are selfless, down to earth and go out of their way to provide for those perhaps less fortunate than they are. Players continue to do amazing things within their lives away from the pitch like:

  • Charity work
  • Donating wages and supplies
  • Inspiring the next generation
  • Going to visit schools and hospitals outside of training in their free time

The list could go on and on but how many of these things do you hear about? Instead, the world would rather focus on the things that players could be doing better.

It is easy to believe everything we read and are told but don’t be too quick to pass judgment if you haven’t got both sides of the story, especially in football!

George Elokobi and I participating in a community event for young children. Image by Richard Blaxall

Stereotype of a footballer: “All money grabbers”

Players are often labelled money grabbers when they move clubs and receive an increase in wages. Moving clubs has to make sense for many reasons:

  • Our career
  • Family reasons
  • Financially

With the money being paid to players, it is easy to believe that money is the only reason players sign for clubs.

I’d be lying if I said money didn’t play a key role in decisions but you have to remember that players often have a family to provide for and as you are well aware, FOOTBALL IS A SHORT CAREER. Whether you think footballers are paid too much or not, I don’t believe many people could turn down a job elsewhere for better money, if it was also going to improve their career and life for their family.

Regardless of the good players do within communities and on the pitch, the conversation always leads back to the money that they earn!

For example, not so long ago, young players were in the headlines for purchasing homes for their families, which is something anyone would love to be able to do. Instead of highlighting the inspiring elements of the story, the headlines highlighted their salary and the price of the houses.

I think that the biggest misconception of footballers is that we are all rich and able to live a life of comfort. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Players at the top level earn an incredible wage and rightly so because they are the best at what they do.

However, players in the lower leagues are not paid anywhere near what most believe. We will all have to work after we retire, we won’t earn enough from our football career to retire in our 30’s and not have to work again.

So that means no retiring to the golf course at 35 like many believe to be the case!

Some even have to juggle a second job alongside their football career. This is a very common scenario, especially amongst the non-league scene where most will work through the day and then have training in the evening for their clubs. Even those in the lower levels of the EFL will supplement their wage from football with additional work elsewhere. Often this is from coaching as it is something that fits well around our schedule that we also have experience in.

Whilst we are fortunate to earn incredibly good money for the hours we work, football isn’t a career that we can leave at the front door when we get home. It is a lifestyle. Whether it is on the pitch, at home, or even on holiday, it is a job that requires 24/7 dedication and sacrifice.

People are always surprised when they hear of a player doing good in the world. This reaction shows the perception that most have of footballers.

When it comes to things that are more important; family, health and privacy, we aren’t any more fortunate than everyone else.

Everyone would like a comfortable lifestyle where they can provide for their families and have nice things, however, a lot of players wish for nothing more than privacy and health for their families, something money can’t always buy. So whilst most might not have any financial worries, I can guarantee you, most would love to live a quiet, private life away from the constant scrutiny that is a by-product of being an elite footballer and celebrity.

Just like there is no typical banker or doctor, there is no “typical footballer”. Every player is human and the way most are portrayed couldn’t be further from the truth. There are obviously exceptions but don’t be too quick to judge footballers from what is reported, or the impression you get from a few, because it isn’t a fair reflection on the majority, who are down to earth human beings living their dream. To tarnish all with the same brush because of the behaviours of a few is unfair to those who continue to be inspiring role models to the next generation.

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