Simon Kuper’s new book “The Football Men” tries to take us beyond what we know of the football superstars on TV and media.
Some insights. Most of them glorify their family turning it into a warm cocoon which is a reaction from a later life governed by mercantilism and ulterior motives. Growing up they know very little outside of football. Certainly, school holds no charm for them and only Frank Lampard is mentioned as having a remote interest in academia.
Professionally, they undergo a “culture shock” when they sign for clubs with a global following. Suddenly their life and locker room is filled with people who are removed from their culture and upbringing. It leads to a sort of separation anxiety with lingering suspicions. In Steven Gerrard’s case he gives voice to his grudges that foreign players are basically cheats and they foul, dive, and whinge too much.
Perhaps it is their early turning to the sport that gives them their precociousness. But most of them instinctively realize that football carries far more weight than a misplaced loyalty to their boyhood club. They’re able to break with their past fairly comfortably which invariably leads to much angst amongst fans who denounce them as traitors. In Ashley Cole’s case it was because of Arsenal’s recalcitrance to offer more than £55,000 a week in salary that proved to be the breaking point.
Stardom though seems to bring no real joy. In Carragher’s case his idea of relaxing is to soak in a hot tub after a grinding match. And Rooney’s favourite hobby is sleeping and sports betting. Kuper also mentions the lack of self awareness and insight most of them seem to have barring Carragher and Gerrard. For Lampard the sight of Roman Abramovich’s yacht has aspirational value and puts into perspective his lack of personal wealth.
Nationalism is over rated too. Most of them expressed disappointment in failing to take England further in 2006 but it was almost always compared to the anguish felt if the same had happened to their club. The period of mourning if it could be called that was very brief. This lack of emotion is at odds with the widespread belief that England will eventually win the World Cup.
The FT has an excerpt >>