Alan Birkett: If one of my kids bit another it would be the fault of a so-called hero they saw on TV
Coach's View: High-profile players like Suarez need to be aware of the influence they can have on youngsters
Wednesday 24 April 2013
The latest incident involving Luis Suarez and Branislav Ivanovic highlights yet again the bad things in football that can influence the way that our children play the game.
Being a head coach at the largest kids' soccer school in the world, I see them pick up the good and the bad from what they watch their heroes do. It's brilliant to see all the children learning new soccer skills and tricks and copying their idols from the Premier League but, unfortunately, it's not the only thing they learn from their heroes.
At the Brazilian Soccer Schools we have young students from the age of five to 16 who learn skills named after players like the Ronaldo Chop, the Robinho Stepover and the Kaka Pivot – and they put them into practice at our sessions and on the football pitch.
Being a lifelong Liverpool fan myself, I would love to name one of our BSS samba moves after Luis and teach the children how to do it, but I would much prefer to call it the Suarez Turn as opposed to the Suarez Bite.
Suarez is one of the best turners of defenders in the world and would be an excellent addition to our list of South American superstar moves but can children actually have him as a role model if he behaves like he did on Sunday?
Professional footballers don't realise just how much they influence the way children play the game. At a session, the children will come in and you will hear them talking to each other saying things like. Did you see that move by Messi? Or, what a goal by Van Persie, and they will try to emulate all of these things. They want to learn stepovers and drag backs, and part of that is because they watch individual talented players and then try to do the moves themselves.
When Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the overhead kick against England the kids came into training and they wanted to try it. They model themselves on the players. I don't want them to come into a session and hear them saying did you see Suarez bite someone? When negative things like biting players happen they look at those as well.
I would be mortified if any of my students bit another. They would be severely reprimanded, sat out of the session, and be reported to their parents – and we would decide if they would be allowed back to future sessions. But it would be all down to one so-called "hero" that the child had copied from on the television.
A lot of diving at kids' level has come out of the professional game. Kids see players' diving and they do the same, rolling around on the ground as if they've been shot.
Abusing referees is another problem. They think they can get away with it. They model themselves on what they see on television where players surround the referee and the kids think it is okay to do same.
Some coaches and some parents criticise and shout at referees during kids' football matches, so what is a child to think when their three major sporting influences – professional players, parents and coaches – behave in this way?
The Suarez incident was disgraceful but was it any worse than the career-threatening tackles that go in and are also copied by the children?
Callum McManaman took out Massadio Haïdara and people were disgusted by it. The kids didn't realise what could have happened. They just saw the slide challenge. He can do that so I can do that, too. And we are now starting to witness a lot more badly timed slide tackles in children's matches. So, who is ultimately responsible when the kids get badly hurt?
Players like Suarez should think about how their behaviour is affecting the younger generations that look up to them and idolise them.
Alan Birkett is head coach at Brazilian Soccer Schools (Tyneside)
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