It’s a common feature of an after match interview with a footballer. He’s often absolutely shattered after a 90 minute game and muddles and ‘erm’s his way through questions and answers. These are often full of cliques and incredibly over simplistic statements about tactics and issues that appeared during the match. “We just scored more goals than them” is a good example. But does that mean, as the stereo types go, that they are thick and if it wasn’t for the small child that lead them onto the pitch at the start they would be wondering around the car park bewildered that they weren’t standing on grass. I reckon the answer is a little more complex than that.
We all know people who are natural speakers. They are able to convey what they are saying simply but eloquently without a single ‘erm’ in sight. Of course people are able to learn this as a skill but some people’s brains are just wired in such a way as to give them the skill naturally.
All our brains are wired differently, there are certain things that people can do naturally without thinking about it and others they struggle with. Most people who are perceived as smart in society; Doctors, Lawyer, Historians, Scientist etc, are wired to be able to memorise and recall large amounts of information. All they have is a good memory and the ability to recall it when necessary. Likewise there are people who are naturally good at negotiation and reading people’s emotions. They are able to read a persons body language, facial expressions and speech patterns and interpret them into useful data. Of course this is all unconscious and done naturally, most people don’t even think about it.
So what does all this have to do with a Footballer? Well all the people I’ve mentioned above; speakers, memorisers and people readers are normally seen as intelligent. I want to make the case that Footballers should fit into this category as well. Think about the calculations footballers have to do during a game. Take simply receiving a pass and then hitting the ball to another player along the ground.
As the ball comes near to the player they have to think about how firmly to hit the ball in order to control it. This involves calculating the speed of the ball traveling towards them, how hard the ball it, how hard their boot is etc. At the same time they have to think who is around them and adjust their touch in such a way as to make sure no other player can take it from them. They then have to look for another player. Once their target is picked out more calculations are needed to get it to him. What is the drag on the ball from the grass, how hard is the ball, how far does it need to go and then finally how hard to hit it. All these calculations take place in the space of a couple of seconds, which is all the more impressive, and is all done completely naturally. It becomes even more difficult when the ball leaves the ground.
So what am I trying to say with this article. Well I guess my message is cut footballers some slack, there are so many other things you can have a go at them for. The amount they earn, the amount they drink, their loose morals, switching from club to club without a thought for the fans. But not that they’re stupid. They’re intelligent but in a different way to what we perceive as “classic” intelligence. If anyone complains next time they get something wrong, try running for 90 minutes then try and remember who won the battle of Trafalgar.
By Jack Troup