That might sound like an odd question, given that most football fans would give up just about anything to wear the shirt of their beloved club. But I have a theory. And it is one I regularly bring up with my mate and fellow Villa fan Steve Wilson, who thinks I’m talking rubbish.
My theory is as follows. Some people at school are good at English; others are good at maths. Whatever your specialism, you’ll probably take a career direction that follows the ability – I work in journalism; Steve works in finance. So, what of people who are good at football? If they’re lucky – and I mean really lucky – they’ll become professional footballers.
But just because they’re good at football, doesn’t necessarily mean they have to like it. I would have loved to have been a footballer because I love football. Yet some people must have a natural ability and not really like their profession. And there’s proof. Take this excerpt from a BBC interview with Tottenham player Benoit Assou-Ekotto:
“For me it is just a job. When I used to play in France I was near my home, my mum, my friends and everybody I know. So why would I come to England? I didn’t speak English or know anybody. It was just a job. I’m sure in every job everybody wants progression and it’s the same for me. But I understand when I go on the pitch I have to give the best of myself because the season ticket is very expensive.”
And he’s not alone. The Guardian collected evidence of stacks of players who took a similar stance to the game in 2007, including former Tottenham and Watford goalkeeper Espen Baardsen.
He became disillusioned with the game at 25, gave it up and completed an Open University degree, before becoming a financial analyst for London-based hedge fund Eclectica. ”It is a great myth that football is easy,” he insisted. “It’s quite miserable compared to what I have now.” Footballer-turned-boxer Curtis Woodhouse is another who disliked the game to such a extent. “Everyone loves football, but I didn’t. It felt like a job,” he said. “I felt empty playing, it got me angry. I could have carried on playing football until I was 35, making a nice wage and having a nice life, but that’s not what I wanted to do.”
So, what do you think? Do footballers actually like football?