Sports stars are human like the rest of us
Published 17/11/2015 | 00:00
Paris Saint-Germain duo David Luiz and Edinson Cavani, who are away on international duty, have come in for strong criticism for expressing concerns about returning to the French capital in the wake of Friday's terrorist attacks.
Surely if they are genuinely fearful for the safety of their families, whether rightly or wrongly, they have every right to make whatever choice that's best for themselves.
It's not a decision I'd make personally but that would be my prerogative, my choice.
The advent of social media has made everyone an expert on pretty much everything and we seem to be quicker to pass judgement than a Formula One pitstop, and it's easy to be righteous from behind a keyboard.
It goes without saying that uniting with the people of Paris by returning to the club that pays their wages would seem like the right thing to do, but just because someone has a €60 million price tag it doesn't bestow higher moral obligations on them than the rest of us and whatever you think of Luiz, and indeed Cavani, it's ultimately up to them to choose their own destiny.
We tend to hold up sports stars as some sort of role models - something which they plainly are not and should never be.
If my young fella bit someone's ear I wouldn't blame Mike Tyson, if Darling Daughter did a kung fu kick on somebody on the street I wouldn't say that's Eric Cantona's fault, or if either of them aimed a leg-breaking lunge at a rival I wouldn't tut-tut and mutter 'that bloody Roy Keane' under my breath.
Ultimately it's the role of the parent to ensure little Johnny or Mary turns out in the right way but we seem to have become a society of passing the buck and blaming all around us rather than taking personal responsibility.
You often hear people bemoaning the fact that diving is rife in soccer, that cynical play rears its ugly head in Gaelic football time and time again and players try to get away with sly and disgusting acts in rugby, saying kids will copy what they see their heroes doing on the field of play.
On the very rare occasions that I let the 'f' word slip out in front of the young lads you can be pretty sure that their sponge-like brains will soak it up and they will be repeating it with glee soon afterwards, so if Ronaldo takes a dive the same monkey see, monkey do rule does apply.
However, just like explaining to them that swearing is not acceptable, the fact remains if a child is reprimanded by their coach or gets a telling off from their parents for being unsportsmanlike, chances are they won't repeat the act.
Speaking of Cristiano Ronaldo, I watched his rare television interview on Saturday night when he appeared on the Jonathan Ross Show, and guess what? He's not a whole lot different than the rest of us, apart from sublime football skills, a six pack and a few dozen cars that is.
Guys like Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, John Terry, Ashley Cole and even media darling and generally all-round good guy David Beckham have hit the headlines for the wrong reasons. They all may live in multi-million pound bubbles but, apart from struggling to put food on the table and pay the bills like many in the real world, they don't live to some high moral standards that the rest us hope to attain.
In a week when supremely talented jockey Pat Eddery passed away after a long battle with alcoholism, it's a good time to remember that sporting greats have the same anxieties and problems as the rest us and are not superhuman deities that were put on the planet for our amusement.
We're all acutely aware of sporting icons like George Best and Alex Higgins, whose lives were decimated by the demon drink - class and standing in society don't matter where addiction and illness is concerned.
Ultimately the real people in your life are the genuine role models - family, friends, teachers and those that give you guidance, not somebody who kicks a ball for a living and resides on millionaire's row.
We have a habit of building up sports stars, most of whom are not exactly known for their sharp political brains, to be far more important than they actually are.
Luiz and Cavani's stance might not sit well with many but they're only human and their choices need to be respected.
Let's leave the politics to those in the corridors of power.