Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Out on the Pitch, Watching the Seven-Year-Olds, the Parents Became More and More Unruly

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Out on the Pitch, Watching the Seven-Year-Olds, the Parents Became More and More Unruly

Article excerpt

Last Sunday, watching my son's team play a game of football, I became aware of another match. It was taking place on the pitch behind us. The kids were younger than ours--around seven--but the atmosphere was definitely adult.

"Wot? Aw, for f**k's sake ... Did you see that?"

"Come on, ref, that's a f*king liberty!"

The parents--of all ages, sizes, races--were annoyed. And despite the efforts of the referee ("I'm talking to the coach, not you," he said to a mother at one point, "so can you get off the pitch?") their rage increased throughout the game, exploding when, in the final few minutes, a child from the opposing team brought down one of their own. The child said sorry and went to check on the hurt boy. But that wasn't enough for the parents.

"You shouldn't be allowed on the pitch!" yelled one. "That's just straight violence!" shouted another. "You've got anger problems! " bellowed a third (who would definitely know about such things).

Result: two crying seven-year-olds instead of one. A lovely way to spend a Sunday.

I don't have much time for such parents. Shouting at kids is a bully's game. Insisting that your children live out your dreams is mad, especially if your dreams are wrapped around football. You are never going to play for Manchester United. Honestly, you're not, and neither is your child, no matter how loud you shout.

Still, I do have a teensy bit of sympathy. Modern parenting is full of surprises, and one of the biggest is how much of it involves standing on the sidelines. …

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