Football and its dark(er) side

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Football was never just about nice things. People involved in the business, especially players, seldom talk about the dark sides.

And even if they do, they usually do it “off the record” – when the person they are speaking too agrees that he will not quote him on that. FourFourTwo magazine recently published results from an anonymous poll among 100 professional footballers from England, Scotland and Wales, who were asked about racism, money, match-fixing, drugs, depression, homosexuality and more. Here are some interesting findings.

It’s better to have fans on your side

While 100 percent (all) of the questioned players answered “strongly agree” or “agree” to the question if they enjoy being a footballer, 78 of them also think depression is a problem. “Now with Gary Speed, Stan Collymore and so on… depression is much better understood,” added a League One player.

Players can have different kinds of problems, from relations within the team itself, to problems with their own fans. While 92 percent of polled players agree loud support has a positive impact on their performance, 61 percent also care what fans think about them. “You shouldn’t, but it’s so much better to have them on your side,” a striker from the SPL is convinced, while a Premier League pro added: “They’re the reason we have a game to play and earn what we do.”

Wages not too high, while transfer fees are

When it comes down to wages, almost 60 percent disagree that footballers earn too much (only 2 percent strongly agree). “When you see Carlos Tevez’s payslip you may think so, but most are paid what they’re worth,” said one of the players, while the other added: “I’ve benefited from it, but it’s got out of hand.” 67 of players also disagree or strongly disagree that footballers are out of touch with normal people.

There are some tricky questions the lads agree on: 62 percent think transfer fees are out of control and more than three quarters of the players agree that the cost of watching football is too high, especially in the top divisions. “You have to be earning around 50 to 60 grand a year to take your kid to every game,” said one the players, with the other adding that it fans would support their local teams instead of a big team elsewhere, that would not be such a big problem.

More recreational than performance-enhancing drugs

While 62 disagree that a gay player would be an outcast in a football team (“I just want to win the game an if he scored the winner I’d be hugging him just the same, and even giving him a kiss if it mean he’d got us the three points,” said a Championship midfielder), half of the polled players agree that recreational drugs are used by many footballers. The number is much smaller (13 percent) when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs. Racism is still a problem, even in the UK: a quarter of the players stated that they have seen a pro player being clearly racist.

Two things closely associated with footballers were also polled: while the 25 percent of players admitting to have used their fame to impress women seems a low figure, the 14 percent of players that seem to know that match-fixing is going on in football is more worrying.

But, don’t worry … Everything might not be what it seems. But even with all the dark(er) sides, it’s still a beautiful game. Enjoy it.

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