Pieces of Hate: Babies Doing Laps of Honour

Footballers’ kids should be like the owners of football clubs: in the background, out of sight, keeping out of the way and not bothering anyone else. They certainly shouldn’t be waved around like trophies at the end of the season. That’s just weird.

There’s something so unedifying about the whole stage-managed spectacle. The final whistle shrills the end of the season and your number 28 who did a job when called upon to fill in at right-back shields his eyes from the May sunshine and scans the posh stand for his partner who runs down to pass over the ‘trophy’, just like they were told to the previous night. Under no circumstances must aforementioned ‘trophy’ be in need of sustenance, requiring excretion of sustenance or generally ‘in a mood’.

No longer is the lap of honour reserved for the parade of a genuine trophy – football grounds around the country now play host to the lap of ‘appreciation’. This generally involves the players, various family members and assorted kitmen ambling around the pitch, occasionally breaking out into a sheepish applause, contorting the mouth into an expression designed to signify, ‘we’ve given it our best shot and although it wasn’t good enough, we appreciate you all paying our wages and we’ll really really try next season. Honest, we will.’

Standard practice is to dress the child up in a mini replica kit, thus declaring ‘look at the fruit of my loins, just look at what I produced. Look here everyone, it’s a mini me since I’m so generally awesome. Not only have I reproduced, I’ve reproduced a me v2.0.’

There’s always one who starts it, kicking down the floodgates for others to follow. J’accuse Dennis Wise for introducing the world to baby Henry in the aftermath of the 2000 FA Cup celebrations. He may not have been the first to do so but his celebrations were the first to be stamped (purely coincidental vocabulary choice there) onto the public consciousness. Of course, footballers being footballers, they clambered onto that bandwagon with the same assurance they display in getting themselves all inked up to the max.

Sure, we now inhabit a climate in which fathers are oh so very keen to play a bigger part in their children’s lives – and kudos to them on that – but is there any need to write it big on a bedsheet and carry it around on their shoulders? It’s just an extension of posting endless photos of your kids on Faceache in the hope that the intended audience will give a big cheesy thumbs up or clog up your inbox with platitudes.

In the real world, days actually exist on which one is permitted, nay, encouraged to bring their child to work, with the intention of allowing them to see how the big bad adult world functions. Sadly, such events only reinforce how tedious adulthood is. Of course, emergencies happen on occasions too, precipitating the need to dump your child on a beanbag somewhere in the work place with a big book of stickers and felt tips. Yet no one benefits from such situations.

They mess stuff up, get icky goo everywhere and generally contribute little to team. They can’t even make a cup of tea or offer any biscuits. Cute? Sure. Kids are generally very cute, especially when the surrounding mood is convivial and there’s something like a party atmosphere. But essentially, they are inescapably other people’s children – fine in small doses but prone to grating a little bit after a while – and we’re not talking that finely grated parmesan, more like that crudely grated chunky cheddar, with added dead skin and fingernails neatly woven into the mix.

To any footballer considering indulging in any form of celebration, do what the rest of us do – either post a cute picture on a social network site of your choice or commission someone to cast a platinum statue of your offspring and place it at the end of the drive by the big wrought iron gates that barricade your country seat (that’s for the top end ballers, rather than the League 1 or 2 ones, to be fair). 

Just remember that the punters forked out something between £20 and £60 to see you bust a gut and dare us to dream – not to see a cute kid clinging on for dear life to your shoulders, traumatised by all those shouty people. Earn the right to wave your offspring at me. Win an actual trophy.

Is David right? Is it time to kick small children out of needless end of season parade laps? Or is he a dark-hearted monster incapable of love and affection? Write to us: [email protected]

You can follow David Marples on Twitter (@davidmarples)

Pieces of Hate: Babies Doing Laps of Honour
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