This week, with the fun of Freshers’ soon coming to an end, and the new routine of labs, lectures, and late-night essay crises beginning, The OxStu counts down some footballers who you may not have minded taking your collections…
Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira is the ultimate response to those who accuse footballers of being brain-dead morons, interested only in money, women, and round bouncy things that move when you kick them. A superbly creative midfielder who earned 60 caps for Brazil, scoring 22 goals, the bearded Brazilian also was a columnist for a number of newspapers and magazines, writing not only about sports, but also politics and economics, as well as frequently appearing as a football pundit and, at the time of his death, writing a fiction book. Most famously, Sócrates was a qualified medical doctor: he earned his degree from the Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto while playing professional football, and actually practiced medicine after retiring from the game. Incredibly, Sócrates was also involved politically, co-founding the Corinthians Democracy movement, in opposition to the then-ruling military government. So, a doctor, world-class footballer, columnist, author, and political activist. Beat that.
The winner of “Britain’s Brainiest Footballer” in a 2002 game show, Carlisle has more strings to his bow than a TV gimmick. Having gained 10 As at GCSE, he famously appeared on Countdown, winning his first two shows before losing his third by just three points. Hugely articulate, the retired centre-back is chairman of the PFA, and has met with David Cameron as part of a PFA delegation discussing racism and homophobia in football, as well as presenting documentaries on racism and suicide within the game. Ever keen to be a respected spokesperson and representative for football, Carlisle has also appeared on Question Time, the first footballer to do so, earning praise from the Guardian for his performance.
The Scouser is a highly-respected figure within the game, both for his work rate as a player and his acumen as a manager. Having made over 300 appearances for Manchester United, and playing 42 times for his country, Coppell proved to be a successful manager, taking both Crystal Palace and Reading to the top tier of English football as well as being credited for discovering young talents such as Ian Wright. Most impressively, however, Coppell, like Sócrates, gained a degree while playing: when he agreed to move to Manchester United it was only on the proviso that he would be allowed to finish his studies, and he successfully gained a degree in economics from Liverpool University.
Another example of how footballing talent and political acumen are not mutually exclusive, Platini has scaled the heights of European footballing bureaucracy to hold the position of president of UEFA. Top scorer and best player at the 1984 European Championships, the Frenchman holds the record for most goals scored in European Championship final tournaments, and twice won the Ballon d’Or for the world’s greatest player. After retiring, Platini became coach of the French national team, being named Manager of the Year by the World Soccer Awards, before serving on the UEFA Technical Development Committee from 1988 to 1990. Following that, the fifty-eight-year-old has created for himself an impressive CV: head of the organizing committee for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, a member of the UEFA Executive Committee, European member of the FIFA Executive Committee, chairman of the FIFA Technical and Development Committee, and vice-president of the French Football Federation. President of FIFA, and the driving force behind the idea to hold the 2020 European Championships across the whole of Europe, there have even been whispers of a run for the Presidency of FIFA.
In a report released last year, researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm concluded that, after analyzing the cognitive performance of Swedish footballers, those who scored most highly in the test tended to score the most goals. In addition, top division footballers outperformed lower division ones and footballers as a whole were in the top two percentile for the population by this measure. Their findings found support from Paul McVeigh, a former Northern Ireland international and author of the book The Stupid Footballer is Dead: Insights into the Mindset of a Professional Footballer, who believes that you can have bags of natural talent, spend your time perfecting your skills and keeping yourself at peak fitness, but if you don’t have psychological strength and mental resilience, it all pales into insignificance. So, for every Rio Ferdinand (said to have an overwhelmingly ‘basic’ command of the English language after an analysis of footballers’ vocabulary on Twitter) there is a Sócrates, a Platini, or a Carlisle.
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