Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Thu 29 May 2008

Time for our stars to lead by example

I can see you're dying to ask me, so let me save you the embarrassment. Yes, I did watch the England v USA international friendly match last night. Was I pleased with the result? I suppose I was, really. Always nice to win, of course. Was I pleased with England's performance? In as much as one can be when they've won 2-0 against reasonable opposition in a meaningless friendly, yes.

Unfortunately, although last night's game ended in a relatively satisfactory way, there was one sour note that lingered on for me. I know this has been discussed before and I'm probably going to open up a can of worms again, but I was quite appalled by the conduct of two of England's players with regard to the influence they'll have on the young children watching.

I give two examples to explain my point. Firstly, there was an incident in the second-half when Wayne Rooney was spoken to by the referee following a tackle on one of the USA players. I think he might have even been booked at the time, but what I do recall quite clearly was the image on my TV of Rooney repeatedly shouting the words "f*** off" at the referee as he walked away from the official. Not a very mature way to react, in my opinion.

Secondly, an England attack on the US goal sometime later was brought to an abrupt halt by the referee's whistle (again, excuse me but the exact reason why escapes me - I think a foul or offside was called), and this resulted in John Terry running back to his own half uttering the F-word openly several times in abject frustration at the referee's decision.

I couldn't help but think that for any kids watching the game last night, this was not the example to set them. I know many children these days have a more than accomplished expletive vocabulary before they're out of kindergarten, but it's not them I'm concerned about. They've already been let down by their parents and probably society as a whole, so maybe there's little that can be done for them now.

It's the kids who are being brought up by responsible people in a respectable environment that I fear for. Not only are they being given every encouragement to swear profusely by their sporting heroes, but they're also being taught that it's OK to disrespect their superiors and elders.

Now before I carry on, I know there'll be plenty of you out there telling me to wake up, smell the coffee and get real, but this really irritates me. The likes of Rooney and Terry need to realise they are role models for kids and are as responsible as anyone for making sure they get the right messages and influences during their developmental years. Given the amount of money they're earning every week, they've surely got to justify it one way or the other and this is just one way of many.

Of course one way to look at this is to suggest some form of punishment that would discourage players from acting so irresponsibly. My wife, a keen rugby union and cricket fan, tells me that in the former you can be sin-binned for acting in an unsportsmanlike way towards the referee. This sounds like a fair way of dealing with the problem to me, especially if the temporary expulsion from the game were to last around 15 minutes or more. I personally feel the absence of such talented players for that time would certainly put extra pressure on their team-mates and discourage them from acting that way again.

There's also the option of heavily fining the players involved, but let's face it, the fine would have to run into six figures to make them lose any sleep over their actions, and that's not going to happen.

So what else can be done? What are your thoughts and ideas on the matter? Should I be cutting a bit more slack for supposedly committed, professional players like Rooney and Terry or should they be punished more severely for their poor demeanour?

Let us know what you think by leaving us a comment… oh and remember, any swearing will not be tolerated… ;-)

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