F365: RT @JohnnyTheNic: Where are all the middle-class footballers? http://t.co/VJr9IkC8

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It seems to one Mailboxer that an awful lot is being put on a young man’s shoulders. Plus; there are mails on Liverpool, Arsenal and posh young footballers…

There’s lots of reaction to the Friday mailbox, in which a Liverpool fan suggested they have a better team than Spurs. Plus, sorrow/delight at Park’s United exit…

Around this time every year, after Wimbledon has ended, there is usually a debate about why there are so few British players who are any good. Though it is hard to stay awake while such debates are being conducted, one of the reasons given is that tennis is a middle-class sport and tennis clubs are bastions of the rich and snooty. ‘They’re white and uptight’ was how someone expressed it. The poor urban youth is excluded culturally and financially and thus Britain misses out on all the tennis potential talent held in that section of society.

If this is true, it is the exact opposite of football which draws almost all of its primary workers from the ranks of the poor, uneducated working class, even though that section of society is actually, according the various demographics, contracting as the middle-class expands.

We are all too painfully aware of how inarticulate and often outright dumb some footballers are. We also know that those who aren’t are often taunted for it by the rest of them. Anyone caught reading a non-tabloid newspaper or even a book attracts professorial status. Anti-intellectualism, always a popular strand to British society, has rarely been as strong and profound as it is now. Read books do you? What’s wrong with you?

Well we can’t all be Will Self. Nor should we want to be. Lack of education doesn’t make anyone a bad person. Football does not require you to have a degree in astrophysics in order to play it to the highest standard.

Or does it?

Could it be that intelligence, brightness and education are actually important factors in how well you develop your football talent? Put simply, do we breed footballers who are too stupid to learn how to improve and thus lose out in increasing numbers to better overseas players? After all, only around 35% of the Premier League playing staff is English.

This is where the class divide comes in. If football, like cricket and rugby, encouraged and attracted more people from the ranks of the educated middle-classes, would we be producing better footballers?

Journalist and broadcaster Gabriele Marcotti raised this in a discussion recently and voiced the opinion that in fact many European footballers are not drawn from the lowly, poorly educated ranks of society the way they are in Britain. It’s not that those people don’t make it in European football, more that there is a wider mix of backgrounds and intellects.

I know from my own experience that this is certainly true in America where soccer is a middle-class, white collar game. It’s more left-field and less ‘jock’ – so much so I’ve met red-necks who consider it un-American. When we see players such as Clint Dempsey, Brad Freidel or Stuart Holden interviewed it’s like seeing a high-achieving student talk about their sport whereas the British interviewee looks more like he’s up in court on a petty theft charge, nervously glancing from side to side, a hunted look in his eyes. He can’t wait to get away.

Certainly the overseas footballers we get in Britain have often been more erudite than their domestic team-mates. Often multi-lingual, living away from home and absorbing a new culture they just seem, well, smarter than our typical British player. Ok, there are examples which contradict this such as Carlos Tevez, who doesn’t seem to be the freshest sandwich in the picnic hamper and it doesn’t seem to have made him a bad footballer.

But why doesn’t British football attract the middle-class onto the pitch? The rewards are there for everyone to see. No traditional middle-class career will pay as well as even a modest football career. It seems unlikely that just being called Tim and coming from the ‘burbs is going to intrinsically make you worse at football than Jermaine from the block.

Given the way the middle-class often steamroller the working class to the best schools and the best jobs in the rest of society, why haven’t they done so in football? At a time when money and privilege have reasserted their primacy; at a time when apparently 40% of the music in the charts is made by privately educated kids; at a time when the playing fields of Eton are once again home for our future politicians and leaders and at a time when social mobility has halted, why have the middle-class not colonised football too? A bloody good thing, some might say.

Indeed, could it be, ironically, that the middle-class are discriminated against by the working class overlords of the game from coaches upwards? Are they being bullied out of the game? The working class have always been tolerated, if some times patronised, in more middle class sports such as cricket and rugby but maybe the reverse is true in football and maybe this is actually to the detriment of our sport, especially at a national level.

It’s often said that we’re not producing enough quality players, which is why our clubs have to buy in overseas stars. Could it be that there is a huge pool of middle-class talent that is simply not being nurtured in favour of working class kids instead? And if our clubs had access to that talent would we be producing teams full of home-grown players who could compete with the best?

One thing is for sure, it’s not for no reason that there are so few middle-class footballers. In all walks of life, football or otherwise, drawing talent from too narrow strata of society is never a good thing. I mean, just look at the state of this government for proof of that.

Im sure they are off getting real educations and having real career`s as the one in a million chance to be a professional footballer is far too slim to bother with. If Rooney or Gerrard were not footballers they would be in jail or washing my car windows at traffic lights.

– chopper

via Twitter Link to Content http://t.co/VJr9IkC8

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