Robbie Savage

Teaching the Kids to “Play” the Game

It’s not often I find myself agreeing with Robbie Savage (ex Wales, Blackburn, Derby etc Footballer, now BBC Pundit and Presenter of the BBC 5 Live 606 Show) Robbie as a player and a pundit delights in being controversial. He was a player you hated if he played against you, but loved if he wore your colours. A character in a sea of blandness, a Simon Cowell on X-Factor, a twat who is compulsive viewing rather like a Panto Villain.

By TuborgLight (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Last night I listened in to 606, in the bath if you must know. I only tend to listen when Reading win, so I’ve only caught it a few times this season. Robbie said this: (Sorry it’s probably UK only)

To summarise for non UK readers (yeah the millions of you!) Robbie said that as a professional a player should foul an opponent deliberately, taking a yellow card in the process to prevent a goal.

If you managed to click the link (well done) you will have also heard several kids coaches phoning up and bemoaning this standpoint. Because it is breaking the rules. Yes I suppose it is, but it’s playing the game. One caller who’s call was not included in it’s entirety went on to compare this viewpoint with the cheating exploits of Lance Armstrong. Mr Armstrong has was not punished immediately with a yellow card, Mr Armstrong pleaded his innocence until the very last, and his actions were entirely in his own interest. Robbie is advocating “taking one for the team.”

We appear to have a warped view of fair play in this country. I have heard many a tale of schools football where one player has scored 10 goals in the first half of a game, only to be taken to one side by the coach and reprimanded for “being unfair” to the other kids. A solid player is valued in the English game rather than a player who is brilliant. Lionel Messi would have been rejected by English coaches because he is small. England would be proud it seems to produce 100 John Terry’s before one skilful player slipped through the net.

Part of professional sport is knowing how far one can bend the rules, to gain an advantage. It’s part of any game, it’s part of the entertainment,, the boxer who wins the mind game before the fight, the cricketers sledging. Diving is cheating, deception of the referee to gain an advantage, bending the rules too far. Fouling (with no intent to injure) to break up play and maybe stop your team conceding is not. It’s high time that we stopped teaching kids how to play the game, and started teaching them how to win, not at any cost, but win, and not stifle skill, talent or desire to triumph.