In England it is said that “Football is the working man’s ballet”. Football has been the sport everyone has been able to afford to participate in, including the poor. It has been a low-threshold sport.
The number of children in Norway living in families with persistent low income is according to Bufdir 115 200. We know that poor children participate to a lesser extent in organized activities than other children. We also know that immigrant children are overrepresented among the poor children.
Football is an excellent integration arena, football is a language that everyone understands.
Many children dream about becoming a professional in football. One should not wake a dreamy child. When adults hear about children’s dreams, some turn those dreams into goals. In order to achieve the goals, the tools of adult life are introduced.
It can be a child’s nightmare. Children are not small adults.
In order for the football clubs to realize their goals, there is an insidious professionalisation, also in children’s football.
Because players abroad have a background from football academies with paid coaches, many believe that we must do the same here. That we must pick out early and specialize the children from the age of six.
In other countries Kids need to be good early and choose sports early. Because football is a sport for the chosen ones. This is an issue that the Norwegian inclusive sports model fortunately does not have to deal with.
I do not have the heart to choose a child with a dream in mind. Facilities, equipment, paid trainers, training camps at home and abroad do not come without a price.
If this price gallop is not slowed down, Football Norway risks that many children will have to stand outside the stadium and peek inside. Because the price tag for participation has become too high. If that happens, the football club will have gone both morally and financially bankrupt.
Regardless of whether you select early, opt out of those players who are not visibly good already in the beginning of football life and in addition throw the poor kids out of the stadium there will be no more players in the Elite and Toppserien. It will only be an opportunity that fewer people can dream of. A good football club has offers from children to seniors that all players, including those from families with persistent low incomes, can afford to participate in.
I fear that the Norwegian clubs are shooting themselves in the foot and introducing expensive academy-like models so that it is becoming increasingly expensive to play football. A development from “The club in my heart” to «The club in dad’s wallet».
Goodbye club, welcome market.
Football is changing from being a universal sport for players with gym shoes and Tommy leggings to becoming a sport with a need for resourceful parents.
If it costs so much that only middle-class children can join, it is not a quality club, it is a shop. Is football becoming a rich children’s sport?
Adults are closer death than children and thus have less time to lose. Some adults want to kill the child, and make the same demands on children as on adults. Remove the toy to produce the players of the future in “professional” academies.
Everyone involved in children’s football will act as knights with two armor. One will equip you to go to war for the children, you will give them a childhood.
The other armor will fight for proper football training. Then you have to know how children learn, you have to know what football skills are, you have to know which skills are to be prioritized in children’s football and how to facilitate it.
The knights involved must be the guardians of football as well. Knights in double armor. Responsible adults to protect childhood. Wise adults who will protect football. Part of this fight is to protect the prize for participation.
At one of our trainings, a boy suggested that we could play the rich against the poor.
The children know. We adults do not have to rub it in.
Anders Jacobsen is teacher, football coach and author of the book “Help, I have become a football coach” He is a former professional player in several Norwegian and English clubs.