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Emmanuel Petit interview‏ - Moral decay in English football

Former France, Arsenal, Chelsea and Barcelona midfielder Emmanuel Petit thinks football in England is suffering from moral decay. Petit was speaking at the Soccerex European Forum in Manchester and says that as society has changed, so has football…

What brings you to Soccerex?

Business. Work. I’m quite involved with football in general; civil rights, marketing deals and now with Netco Sports. We are creating applications for smart phone, mobiles.

Tell us a bit more about this app

We created an app for clubs, federation… the more information you get the better, you know.

Also, we have created as well the first social network The Fan Club which for the moment has 400k members.

It’s like facebook or twitter you go there this is for the football fans and they can discuss and talk about their clubs, about everything.

Injury forced you out of the game; Do you have any unfinished business with football?

Unfinished business? No, because I had a big and full career. I was very happy, I was very lucky with the career that I had.

My big injury, they had to cut my leg in two parts when I was a Chelsea player and that’s why I had to retire. I tried to comeback with Arsenal but it was so painful and so difficult that’s why I decided to stop my career.

Can you see a career in management or coaching at some time?

Not really. I don’t get that in my blood you know, I understand that some players want to keep in touch with the pitch, I understand that but when you are a manager you have to live for football 120%.

I left my family when I was 11 years old, I had a very beautiful career, I love football, football is important but this is not the most important thing for me, my family is the most important thing.

You played in many succesful teams. Do you retain that bond of friendship with your ex-team-mates?

Of course, of course. Im quite disappointed as I was expecting to see Patrick (Vieira) yesterday here but he took a train to go back to London to see his family.

I keep in touch with some of them Patrick, Robert, Bartez, Lillian Thuram.

I’m commentating the FA Cup for French TV so most of the time I see former teammates or opponents who are retired as well so we keep in touch. With all the business I have around football, you always keep in touch with everybody.

How has the game changed in the last ten years?

It’s very simple. Its changed like society. The most important thing now-a-days is money, money, money, show me the money, give me the money [aagh]. It’s like we all becoming vampires, you know.

For me the problem we have in society is that human beings are becoming the last chain in the link, you know, we are not the first one now we are the last one, you understand what I mean?

All the decisions are made without thinking about human beings and football is quite the same actually. Money is the rules and the players now are becoming more individual.

Football has changed in this way, unfortunately, because we let football change in this way. It’s a collective sport but now players are thinking about themselves first, before the team or the club.

How do you view British players' mentality compared to those on the continent? 

It’s changed a little bit. I could see when I first came to England, it’s always difficult to play against English players, their fighting spirit, you know, they will always give 100% all the time, even if they are losing five nil.

It’s changed a little bit, because in my time you had to fight against a tough guy.

Now the players are not tough. But I think the last tough guy on the pitch actually is the like of John Terry, (Rio) Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard but for the new generation I don’t see a really, really tough guy, a guy who comes on the pitch and says “today we are going to win the game”.

I think that’s been missing from English football. It’s probably linked with the winning mentality but I think it’s a question of ‘what do I want.’ Do I have to be here just to get the money or do I want to put my name in football history, you know. That’s the difference between the players who are here to make history and the players that are here to take the money.

What do you think are the negative factors that influence British footballers? 

Alcohol. All these bulls**t things you know, alcohol, prostitutes, things like this you know. It's always like that. Its gonna be like that. It was like that in my time, it's like that nowadays, it's gonna be like that in ten years time.

I think the new technology as well, they are surrounded by cameras by mobiles, they are scared about their image all the time.

When they talk to a person, they don’t know if it will be on Facebook or Twitter, its scary actually, you have to protect yourself, you have to be very clever. You have to stay back a little bit and think about every responsibility you should have as a public person.

Sometimes and somewhere I think most of the players are missing the plot. They are thinking ‘Im famous, I’m earning a lot of money, I’m above the laws’ and no, your image, the way you are walking, the way you are living, you got a big responsibility as a human being. Socially, football is very important in our society and you should never forget that.

Do you think football still need role models & who do you see as role models for young British players? 

Actually, I think the new generation they are all trained to get their own personality, their own show, things like this with the hair cut, the tattoos, the ear rings, I don’t know exactly where they wanna go. I cannot make my name on the pitch so I’m gonna make it physically, you know (chuckles).

What do you think can be done to help protect players & do you think the game has a responsibility to support players so they don't fall into this trap? 

Players always had responsibilities. As I’ve said before, social impact of football in our society is huge. Team mates show football players at the same level as politicians, actors, whatever, you know.

That’s why when you are an icon you are representing the interest of your clubs and you have a responsibility because they wouldn’t understand if you behave badly, if you treat people with no respect, that’s impossible because we have been blessed by the chance to be a football player.

Million of kids are dreaming of being a football player, it’s that dream, people even after 15 years old they are dreaming of football they wish they will be in your position that’s why I think sometimes club should have that responsibility as well to remind the players where they are and what responsibility they have to bring and show.

Tell us why football matters to you

Football matters to me a lot because football is very important for me as well, I know what football gave to me as a person, as an individual, as a footballer. It gave me so many things but the most important thing football built me as a person, a strong person, physically and mentally.

That’s why it’s very important, keep on playing football, sport is very important and I pray that most of the people on this planet should do more sport there will be less crime or less stupidity in this world.

Emmanuel Petit was speaking to

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