What do we want from players? And what traits do they need to be held in the highest esteem? Flair, pace, strength? Intelligence? We always note which players are more intelligent than others.
Lampard has good GCSEs and an IQ good enough for Mensa. Arsene Wenger has a degree in electrical engineering and economics and recently Johan Djourou’s interview with The Independent highlighted him as one of the sharper knives in football’s draw. But why do we care? Intelligence seems to have little relevance to a footballer’s worth. As long as they’ve got a ‘football brain’ that’s all we really care about, isn’t it?
Obviously as long as a player is on form and aiding your team’s success you’re not going to care if he knows what the capital of England is but in a world where fans are increasingly disenfranchised with overpaid footballers the idea that our hard earned money is at least going to men who could form some sort of opinion on political affairs in this country would be reassuring.
With so many footballers displaying levels of narcissism not seen since Joseph Smith Jnr claimed he’d spoken to god you’d be forgiven for wanting to see some humility and intelligence grace our sport. For too long have men who’s intellect barely qualified them as sentient beings been paid five times the average yearly wage in this country every week. As talented as they may be it makes them harder to respect.
Perhaps we don’t necessarily think less of good footballers for being less intelligent but our yearnings for the intellectualisation of the game definitely sees us put those we consider to be intelligent on a pedestal. Just look at Thierry Henry or Clarence Seedorf.
Or even Clark Carlisle: how much more do you respect the Burnley defender after seeing on Question Time hold his own against the likes of Alastair Campbell last year. The rise of organisations like Zonal Marking demonstrate the desire of football fans to see deeper in to the sport they love, to gain a better understanding, an understanding that footballers with base intellect just can’t provide us with in interviews. Perhaps the problem is that we only notice the poor quality of the interviews that we have to absorb when a genuinely bright footballer comes along.