Dear Footballers

Thick as a parrot: a new American study claims that repeatedly heading the ball can make footballers lose up to ten IQ points.So what else is new?

Psychopaths blame their parents, actors blame critics and politicians blame the press, so why shouldn't you blame the ball? What do you mean "Ball?" The ball. The ball,: the big, round white leather thing you're paid to kick around the pitch. The pitch. The big, square green thing... I absolutely refuse to do this. Let's get back to the ball. That's right, the big, round white leather thing. You're getting good at this, aren't you? American researcher Dr Adrienne Witol tested 60 of you guys, aged between 19 and 29, all playing up to five times a week, and she discovered - these are highly complex technical terms - that footballers are as thick as milk shake, and only half as sweet.

It's heading the ball: having 13ozs crash against your noggin at 60mph more than 10 times during a game not only ruins your hairstyle, it can lose you IQ points, and boys, when you weren't exactly first in the (I) queue to begin with, you really don't want to be demoted from an average of 112 - heading the ball once a game - to 103 (ten times or more a game) and forever after have trouble passing concentration tests. For instance, try supplying ready answers to the following trick questions, what's your name?/who do you play for?/how many pounds make a bung? .

Now, I'm not suggesting all footballers move their lips when other people are reading. Eric Cantona, for instance, is known for perusing the great philosophers and penning poetry. And for taking flying kicks at fans. Hmm. Perhaps not the best example. Let's try again: Jurgen Klinsman, now, he's a famous (you should pardon the expression) head case, and he can organise sentences that are stunning in their grasp of life's essentials. "pounds 20,000 a week sounds nice to me", and "I'm off to bank those millions in Munich, English schweinhunds, ha ha ha" - precise, rigorous, certain. And who would dare argue that someone who can count up to four million plus isn't smart?

But Jurgen is the exception, not the rule (for a start he speaks better English than most of his erstwhile Tottenham team mates). The rule is footballers who can co-ordinate their limbs but not their wardrobes - Gazza! Is Helen Keller your personal shopper? - who can't face a camera without coming over all Terry Christian, and nasty, totally unfounded nicknames like poor Arsenal captain Tony Adams' match-time moniker of Donkey, which is surely meant not as a slur on his intellect, but as a celebration of another part of his anatomy.

I know, I know. It's not as if you fellas have to be rocket scientists. But it would be good if you could, just once, be seen in public ordering lunch without sounding like Lenny from Of Mice and Men, durh, durh, durh. It's easily accomplished. Sound medical advice: next time you see that big, round white leather thing coming at you, move your head around so it doesn't always impact on the same spot. Spread the damage, or, to put it in terms you'll immediately understand: remember, it's a brain with two halves.

John Lyttle

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