Bring back the Bay City Rollers: why FA’s U12 heading ban is common sense and nothing more
The FA are set to trial a ban of heading in under-12s football in England, in light of concerning neuroscience research findings.
Nostalgia is one hell of a drug. It’s so potent, in fact, that it can lure people into pining and and hankering for things that made their lives considerably more miserable.
It’s been hot this week, if you hadn’t noticed. At one point my native Gateshead was recording temperatures higher than Death Valley - the local branch of Iceland is said to be considering a rebrand to ‘Puddle’.
Even the hapless quintet of decommissioned animatronics vying for the role of Tory party leader have had to address a resurgent conversation surrounding our looming climate crisis. And by address, of course, I mean “dismiss wholeheartedly” All hail the donors. (Worth bearing in mind that personal fortunes will matter for nought when the going rate for a single loaf of bread is a sackful of bottle caps and a packet of Ibuprofen, but hey ho).
A cursory scroll through your social media timeline of choice, however, would have you believe that none of this really matters because it also got hot once in 1976. Back then, you see, we were a proper country. Nobody cared about woke nonsense like “heat-related deaths” or “the Ozone layer”.
Kids would be out from dawn until dusk, wearing nothing but a toothless grin and a slathering of chip fat to protect them from sunburn, and the only people fortunate enough to have fans were the Bay City Rollers.
Becoming an ice cream man was the noblest of all earthly pursuits, and after a ‘99 and a dollop of corporal punishment, entire families would wash down their suppers with a mug of bubbling tarmac. Turns out solar flares and rose-tinted spectacles give off a remarkably similar hue.
On a somewhat related note, the FA are set to trial a ban on heading footballs in matches at Under-12 level and below, much to the chagrin of keyboard warriors and existentially-unfulfilled dinosaurs alike.
The thing is though, not everything has to be a pitched battle in the bloody trench combat of culture war rhetoric. Sometimes, common sense must be allowed to prevail.
Research and advances in medical science have proven the figures to be both stark and frightening. Former footballers are more likely to die of brain disease than any other demographic in society, while retired professionals are three-and-a-half times more likely to die from dementia than peers of the same age range in the general population.
The facts are indelible, and the decision to limit headed contact at young ages is not only sensible, but in some cases, could end up being vital.
It is not, as some furiously espouse, an attack on the very fabric of the beautiful game, nor will it have the kind of detrimental impact on ability that will make emerging English players the laughing stock of the sport globally.
One of the biggest problems that our splintered, fractured nation continues to butt up against is the “IT NEVER DID ME ANY HARM!” mindset, as if hardship and flagellation are badges of honour to be worn with smug pride and to be passed down from generation to generation like noxious heirlooms.
If we have the chance to make something better, or at the very least, less harmful, then why wouldn’t we? The FA should be lauded for putting the long-term health of young players first and foremost.
Of course, the detractors will rally and rail in frothing shades of apoplexy no matter what, but who knows, maybe if they hadn’t headed so many footballs during the apocalyptic summer of ‘76, we wouldn’t be forced into retreading these exhausting arguments time and time again.