Football, Gender And Success

I know why they do it. It’s meant to be nice. I know that. I’m meant to be thrilled and agree. But, frankly, I find it quite annoying.

Actually more than ‘quite’. I find it VERY annoying.

When you see what I’m talking about and many of you will think I’m over reacting – that I need to ‘chill out’.

Perhaps I do.

But, even so, hear me out. I do have a point.

A few months ago, Sam was on the cusp of crawling, he was a bundle of wriggly-ness (yes, I’m aware that’s not a word). He’d recently discovered his legs (an event that, I’m sure, must have been akin to when Carter unearthed Tutankhamen’s tomb – although this story only contains one mummy). Sam was kicking his legs all the time – like it was going out of fashion.

Here comes the annoying bit.

“He’s kicking well there,” said an old lady, smiling at me. “Who knows? You might have a footballer on your hands!”

Now I know, in her mind, she was probably saying something nice.

That’s what you say about little boys, isn’t it? If they’re lucky, they might grow up to be footballers. It’s a social norm, an acceptable comment to pass on a baby. My frustration is not with the old lady. She is certainly not the first to have said it to Sam, and (I’m sure) won’t be the last. My frustration is with the aspiration that lies behind it?

Why are we limiting our boys in this way?

Sam may well grow up to be a footballer. But kicking a ball around a field and speaking in monosyllables is not the only way my son can achieve success*.

*At this point, I’d like to make clear that, whatever he does with his life, Sam’ll always be a success in my eyes (even if he does play for Manchester United).

Why can’t we start saying?

“Oh, there’s a good arm wiggle. Who knows? You might have a cardio-thoracic surgeon on your hands!”


“He makes a good giggle. Who knows? You might have a polyglot on your hands!”


Well you get the idea. There are many, many, ways to ‘succeed’ in life.

For me being a nice, decent, caring person is the primary way this can be achieved. I’ll be far more proud of Sam if he looks out for the needs of others than if his face is available to stick into a Panini album (I’m talking stickers here, not sandwiches).

Our society is one screaming out for positive male role models. Wouldn’t it be great if a new generation was allowed to look beyond the football pitch to find them?

So, apologies to the old lady (who was, I know, meaning to be kind), but I’m not going to be limiting my son’s aspirations. There’s a whole world available to our kids, success can take many forms.

Next time you see a baby boy kicking/waving/smiling/screeching, why not say:

“There’s a great kick/wave/smile/screech he’d make a great dancer/social worker/paramedic/teacher”?

Maybe I overthink things?

But maybe, just maybe, I don’t?

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