i Editor's Letter: We need more parents who 'give back'


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The Independent Online


How heartbreaking is the tragic news of the 41-year-old in Holland who died after being punched and kicked by teenage footballers for whom he was acting as a linesman (p11). To make matters worse, if that's possible, Richard Niewenhuizen's own son had been playing in the match for the Buitenboys club. Three teenagers, aged 15 and 16, from the rival Nieuw Sloten team were subsequently arrested.

"He was a real football man; he was always here," was the heart-felt tribute from Buitenboys' chairman. It is impossible to comprehend that a man should die in such circumstances, or to contemplate the devastation his family will be feeling.

I often express my admiration for those parents who – to use the American – "give back". We all know them: those who officiate at matches, make the refreshments, volunteer to set up and clean up, do all the laundry, or coach at ungodly hours in all weathers. It's not restricted to sport. It could be drama or musical performances, or organising the school fair, the hospital's Christmas auction or the local library's fundraising drive. The Big Society as it always has been without a politician appropriating it for their own agenda.

I'm often depressed by the way parents behave on the touchline of school sports fields. All reason departs as the red mist descends at a perceived slight on little Johnny or Emma, or a supposed bad call.

What is the matter with us all? This is the example children absorb and reflect in their own behaviour. We need to find a new culture of respect for those who do "give back", for our children, and just as importantly, ourselves. Sadly, it's too late for Richard Niewenhuizen.