Top-flight footballers can learn from Olympians, say Townsend and Southgate
Thursday, 09 August 2012
August 9 - Football at the highest level can learn from the Olympics in terms of harnessing the feel good factor that has pervaded London 2012, according to two of Britain's most respected voices.
Former internationals Andy Townsend and Gareth Southgate, the latter who left his role in the summer as the Football Association's head of elite development, were in Central London to discuss how the Premier League has increased tourism to the capital.
While admitting that top-flight English football was still a hugely enticing product, they told a briefing here that it still had ground to make up compared to the Olympics in terms of human relationships.
"Sometimes football can be a bit insular and it would have been very instructive for Team GB, especially the younger players, seeing the other elite athletes from other sports and how they conduct themselves," said Townsend, former captain of the Republic of Ireland and now a television analyst.
"When I look back I think how much I enjoyed it – running out for every game in front of a packed stadium.
"That is more than a lot of our Olympic athletes enjoy in their sports and I hope every football player appreciates it.
"I know that a lot do but not all of them and maybe it can be an issue, particularly with youngsters growing up in the game now.
"The money and the other gains are not the first thing.
"I hope the Olympics will have reminded them that they are in football to enjoy playing, to entertain and to win – and then all the other stuff will come."
Southgate, former England midfielder and manager of Middlesbrough, echoed those views by saying he had noticed how respectful Olympians were to each other.
"I've picked up particularly on the humility evident in the behaviour of the athletes at the Olympics," he said.
"The way that, if they've lost, they've accepted defeat, they haven't looked to blame other people; they've accepted their own responsibilities – but also that, when they've won, they've celebrated that too in the right way and showed respect for their opponents.
"That's been very refreshing."