Friday, February 14, 2014

Markus Rosenberg donates big to charity: precedent or perception?

When we think about footballers and money, it’s usually because the most interesting ones make a lot of it. Like, a lot lot. And the more I think about what footballers have to go through what with the tabloids, existential uncertainty and with respect to the overall revenue sharing picture, the more I think at least a portion of this is justified.

You rarely hear about the philanthropic works of footballers, or at least they are rarely highlighted when compared to the frequency of “pay me more to show me respect” stories. Sometimes, even, stories of athletes and their charitable interests sound downright shady. The most high-profile examples of laudable footballing charities include Craig Bellamy’s academy in Sierra Leone and almost the entire Football League’s involvement in the Kick It Out program.

Sweden striker Markus Rosenberg made a wonderful gesture today by donated his Midlands’ home furnishings to a local charity upon mutually leaving West Bromwich Albion. The charity, Sue Ryder, provides care for those who suffer from debilitating and terminal illnesses. It doesn’t matter if this gesture was a caring gift or a player just wanting to get out of town in a hurry, those who come out of this the best are seriously ill people who need help because of the circumstances they face.

In any case, congratulations, Markus Rosenberg and thank you. Good luck in Sweden.

We often criticize players for self interest in what is supposed to be a team game. But that team game requires a player to highlight his own performance in order to attract financial rewards or perks, a situation easily mistaken for narcissism. Football stars have long been unfairly perceived as heroes but as stories of excess overtake those of community contribution that view has become embedded with real life grit – many are now more can’t-look-away antiheroes than Supermen.

Fans get our information from sources that suit us and take into account that information’s credibility, brevity and spin. Even though newspapers and the internet can publish in colour now, the shorter-format written word can’t help but be more monochromatic. The result is the perception that all footballers are indolent, uneducated egotists who are often very good at making us happy.

Part of this is very much down to the altered view of reality that is created by the locker room. In England this most often manifests in examples of luxuriant spending perceived as far more newsworthy by info-peddlers than community projects that are brought about by high wages. It’s possible that players giving the inside of their house to charity doesn’t happen very often. But, it’s just as possible that it does and we just don’t know about it. Taking cues from TV and cinema, the press assumes we like our heroes dirty.

There is space in the world for clean cut figures to idolize in the sports arena. This act by Markus Rosenberg is a generous (but not heroic – Jason McCartney, that’s a sporting hero) one and hopefully one that starts a trend towards footballers monetarily contributing back to the communities that earn them such attention.

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