Former Arsenal legend Liam Brady, currently Head of Youth Development at the club, stated his belief that social media culture and video games is behind the lack of desire in young footballers in England.
The youth coach who spent seven years at Arsenal, where he made 235 appearances, before playing for the likes of Juventus and Internazional, claims that the distractions provided by Facebook and video games to young people makes them less hungry for success and that it has had a damaging affect on the talent pool in the UK.
In an interview with Four Four Two, he offered anecdotes from his childhood in Ireland where he had nothing to keep him occupied other than his love and passion for football.
“We’re battling against all the modern things that are around for teenagers, and we can suffer because they are less hungry as a result. Growing up in Dublin I played for a young boys’ club. We trained maybe once or twice a week and played on the weekend.”
Whilst his comments aren’t the first and won’t be last of that nature with reference to social media’s affect on teenagers, his insights offer more of a comprehensive understanding of how this has impacted the game of football and, synonymously, sports as a whole.
“When I wasn’t with the football club I would practise on my own because I didn’t have anything to keep me at home – we weren’t staying at home with a video game or on Facebook,” he continued.
The FA and the England national team have certainly taken some criticism in recent years due to some poor performances in international competitions – nations such as Germany and Spain have a wealth of talent to draw from that England simply can’t compete with on any level. Yet the Premier League remains arguably the best football competition in the world.
But where the influx of foreign talent has previously been blamed for England’s failings, Brady points to a more interesting and recent development that may have played a part in the decline in English football. But one must ponder whether, if it really does have such an impact, why hasn’t it had as much impact on the Spanish or the German teenagers that have come through the system in the last 10 years.
“That has been a negative for the pool of players that once existed in the British Isles and you can see why we have to broaden our scouting system to cope with that,” he added.
Whilst I don’t entirely disagree with the notion that social media, video games and the like distract teenagers from schoolwork, I think many parents would have considered football to have been a similarly distracting pastime in days gone by. Footballers at the higher levels earn vast sums of money now compared to the pittance their predecessors did – that surely has to counteract their desire to play video games and browse Facebook. In fact, if anything, they should really be hungrier.
“On the plus side, the money spent on academies is phenomenal and the help that these kids get, to mould them into good professionals, is far superior to what it used to be,” explained Brady, almost undoing his own argument.
I don’t think social media and video games have had as much of an adverse affect on teenagers’ desire to perform in any field. Yes, it’s a well-documented distraction but idle hands (or feet) will find something to do, no matter what it is.
If a young person wants to be something and has a hunger and desperate desire to achieve his or her dream, then no amount of Facebook, or Twitter or video games will get in their way. You only have to look at the likes of Jack Wilshere, Raheem Sterling or, on the continent, Mario Gotze, Lewis Holtby Isco, and Iker Muniain – I’m pretty sure they’re all on Facebook or Twitter and enjoy a game of FIFA every now and then.
image: © West McGowan