It is fast becoming a fad these days to see footballers or ex-footballers, especially those who distinguished themselves playing the round leather game to impress on their sons’ the need to take after them whether they look suited for it or not. On some occasions, there has been an appreciable level of success, while at other times it has turned out a disaster.
However, unwittingly these football stars, by their actions have tended to pile undue pressure on their wards as they feel that their fathers’ shoes are far too big to be worn. That aside, there is the question of whether the prospective football player’s opinion was sought or whether he had the talent and passion to succeed as a football player. Here lies the basic disconnect between those players who succeed and those who don’t.
Of course, the lure of the mega box on the big stage, as well as the fame that goes with it, has been a huge incentive to impressionable youths who try to ape their successful fathers who played the game. But has this guaranteed success? Certainly not, as current, unfolding events have shown. Players whose fathers played football at the biggest change are often expected to perform like their parent; hence giving these players enormous pressure that will eventually make them fail or perform below par.
Abedi Pele Ayew family is perhaps the most successful football family in recent times, with three of his sons (Ibrahim Ayew, Jordan Ayew and Andre Ayew) playing professional football. Although the Ayew brothers have all represented the Ghanaian national team at the biggest football competition i.e FIFA World Cup, they are still being overshadowed by the achievements of their father, Abedi Ayew. Only last week, the Ayew brothers, Jordan and Andre made a history as they featured as twin strikers for English Premiership side, Swansea against Huddersfield.
Gianluigi Donnarumma, although a very promising goalkeeper still has to contend with the achievements of his father, Gianluigi Buffon in goal. Having started his senior career at 16 years old in AC Milan, Donnarumma has the potential to become a great goalkeeper like his father. He alongside his elder brother Gianluigi Antonio started at Rossoneri youth academy before being promoted to the senior team. At 19, Donnarumma could still find it hard to eclipse his fathers’ achievements. No matter the young man’s achievement in goalkeeping there will always be a comparison with his father, a situation likely to unduly unsettle him.
Timothy Weah, the son of the Liberian President and former FIFA World Footballer of the Year, George Weah recently had his senior debut at PSG. Although his elder brother, Weah Jr. had a failed attempt at football, Timothy will be under immense pressure to fill the giant shoes of his great dad.
Enzo Fernandez Zidane, the son of Real Madrid legend Zinedine Zidane had his time with Real Madrid Castilla, struggled at the senior team in 2015 before he moved to Alaves in 2017. The sons of David Beckham, Brooklyn and Romeo also had their brief time with the Arsenal Academy before calling it quits to the disappointment of David, their father.
The world’s biggest shoes to fill will be that of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who has 10 Ballon d’Or between them. With Cristiano Ronaldo Jr. often training with his dad and Lionel Thiago readying in Barcelona’s La Marsia, it is quite obvious that both players want their children to emulate them.
The common habits of footballers sending their sons to football academies in order to emulate them could be a great risk to the future of these Children, who are being prematurely thrust into the limelight by their parents.
Analysts feel that the decision to play football or not should entirely rest on the shoulders of a player, be him the son of a footballer or not as it has proved not be a guarantee for success. Rather, talent, flair and skill should form the pivot on which a prospective player should shoot into the limelight. This, more than anything else is the best legacy these footballers can leave for their wards.