Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

St Michael Can Save Us from the Football Demons

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

St Michael Can Save Us from the Football Demons

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL HART

THANK God for Michael Owen. At a time when damnation beckons anyone in football boots, Owen offers the game salvation. It is certainly time for the Owens of the football world to stand up and be counted.

It is time high-profile players like Owen and England captain David Beckham showed the public there is a decent side to a professional sport, which is being held accountable for so many of society's ills. Football has its share of thugs and liars like Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer because these are the people our society is producing.

You cannot fairly blame sport for these people, just as it was wrong to blame sport for producing the terrace hooligans of the 70s.

But just as football gave a focus for the thuggery of hooligans and so had to solve the problem, so football has to recognise that it has a duty to try to cure rather than exacerbate the current drink/drug culture.

It can do that by producing suitable role models and football has no finer role model at the moment than the smiling, amiable Owen.

He is the product of a large, happy family. His father, Terry, was a professional with Everton and his mother Jeanette handles Michael's post and daily engagements diary.

Success on the field, enhanced by a squeaky-clean image, has made the newly-crowned European Footballer of the Year rich beyond the dreams of the average man, but much of his fortune has been spent buying houses and cars for family members. No one has yet had to remind him of his responsibilities.

It hasn't been necessary. He accepts that as a matter of course he has a duty to behave acceptably.

Like Owen, Beckham has emerged as a similarly responsible individual who combines family life with a glamorous, high-profile existence. Both he and Owen would squirm with embarrassment at their portrayal as figures of saintly virtue. Of course they have human frailties, but they are sufficiently decent to counter the growing perception that football is populated by overpaid thugs and cretins. …

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