Why Aren’t Footballers More Intelligent?

I’ve read a couple of things today that have really caught my eye, both of them refer to the intelligence of footballers though in completely different ways.

I was chatting to my sister-in-law (well, fiancée’s brother’s girlfriend) a while ago about football coverage in The Guardian newspaper. She expected the paper to take a less than committed approach to sport in general but from what I’ve read over the years, no paper looks more in depth at sport than The Guardian.

Firstly, there was an article looking at whether certain skills a footballer performs during matches are instinctive or planned. It’s a fascinating read based around an interview Wayne Rooney gave recently regarding his thought patterns during matches. He’s very easy to poke fun at, Rooney, but he’s a supremely talented footballer no matter what you think of him and his activities away from the pitch.

Wayne Rooney once scored a magnificent overhead kick, shown in the video above. <boast>I was there</boast>. He was talking about the goal when he said:

When a cross comes into a box, there’s so many things that go through your mind in a split second, like five or six different things you can do with the ball. You’re asking yourself six questions in a split second. Maybe you’ve got time to bring it down on the chest and shoot, or you have to head it first-time. If the defender is there, you’ve obviously got to try and hit it first-time. If he’s farther back, you’ve got space to take a touch. You get the decision made. Then it’s obviously about the execution.

As the article says, “to have that level of consciousness seems extraordinary [and] the assumption is that the act is instinctive but Rooney makes that goal sound as though it were the result of a rational process”.

So, think about it. In the time taken for the ball to leave Nani’s right foot for the cross, Rooney thought all that, decided which course of action was best then executed it to perfection.

Intelligence shows itself in different ways in different people. I’m not sure I could judge the situation of who’s around me, where they are, what my abilities are and completing the course of action in that time to that degree of precision. OK, it’s not an academic intelligence, more an innate understanding of the physics of the ball’s movement and the space around them.

The article goes on in depth discussing the way the mind works in relation to sport in general and is a fascinating read.

Secondly, I was reading an article about a Czech Republic international defender, Theodor Gebre Selassie, who is the son of a doctor and a teacher. He is an intelligent man as well as an international quality footballer, choosing football over studying at university.

The part that really caught my eye, though, was that he was considering returning to university and studying alongside his football career. He says he has “quite a lot of time” and this got me thinking; once players finish training in the morning and have their lunch in the club canteen, what do they do for the afternoon? Watch Sky Sports News? Listen to TalkSport? Spend a few quid down at the Apple Store? Well, why not improve yourself?

If I was a professional footballer, two things would scare me. Firstly, what am I going to do when I retire, which usually happens by the time a player reaches 35. Secondly what am I going to do with all this free time in the afternoons when the rest of the world is working? These fears can be remedied by study.

I know that for those of you who know me this may seem like a massive joke and that if there was one person who didn’t take university seriously, it was me!

Most footballers need something other than the usual routes retired players take (punditry, coaching, weight gain) and choose to get a ‘proper job’, often in the offices of a club they’re represented. They could open up their options massively by studying something they’re interested in.

I can’t see why more players aren’t doing that kind of thing. Lack of necessity, I suppose.

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About Scott

Motorsport, football, AFL, noisy music, Pez. Web designer from S. London/Kent, lives in the north. Lapsed punk drummer. Probably craving a walk in the hills

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