My response was that I believe that football (soccer) offers an incredible pathway to learning life skills. Football helped me build confidence on and off the field, and taught me to grow through moments of success and disappointment. I know, firsthand, that football (soccer) brings people together — all it takes is a ball and a few people, and the seeds of friendship are planted.
For me, football has provided both the community and confidence that continue to shape my life on and off the field. As a young boy, football is where I met the people who to this day are my best friends. It is also where I began to learn about the important relationship between hard work, teamwork and fun. It has been such a huge part of my life, and yet it is not my life’s entirety — dating back to my time at school, I always believed that “student” came before “athlete,” and I was fortunate to have a coaches & mentors who reinforced that I needed to be strong in the classroom to be strong on the pitch.
Are young people today students of the game and know its history?
When you talking about football heroes many will say, “Pele, Maradona, Messi, Ronaldo.” But few people younger than 60 years will mention my football hero Sir Stanley Matthews. I love sporting heroes who excel in their field of sport at a global level but who are also best remember for their global impact in supporting social change.
Sir Stanley Matthews
- First European Footballer of the Year
- Retired from professional football aged 50 years and 5 days
- Coached and developed a club in Soweto South Africa (ignoring apartheid)
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League President Eugene Dwaah
Footballers are heavily influential. Many children and young adults are immersed in the game, from TV and social media to console games, and a lot see those superstar players as role models, whether for good or bad. Social media, in particular, is readily accessible and makes it much easier for footballers to get their message across. More recently we have seen a rise in footballers using social media, particularly Twitter, to lend their weight to a particular cause.
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Question: Who is your sporting hero and why?