‘After a footballing career, players have 50 years of leftover life to kill’

Your digest of analysis and commentary from the British and international press

Mark Noble
West Ham’s Mark Noble in a match against Manchester United in March
(Image credit: Peter Powell - Pool/Getty Images)

1. A long retirement is the price footballers pay. Is 15 years of glory worth 50 years of emptiness?

Hunter Davies in the New Statesman

on glory days

“I felt sorry for Mark Noble, hauled off last Saturday for West Ham against Chelsea,” writes Hunter Davies in the New Statesman. “Noble is getting on, but can be relied upon to give hope to his team.” Is substitution “the worst thing that can happen to a player?” asks Davies. “All their millions in the bank, their fame and status, count for nothing in that moment of public humiliation.” Of course not, says Davies. “Let me count the worser ways.” He goes on: “Life after football is the longest, most depressing thing they have to face – empty decades stretching ahead, leftover life to kill.” “Divorce is very common in retirement. Then there are the ailments that may have been caused or exacerbated by their career, such as arthritis and dementia,” he continues. “So would you do it if you had a choice? Take 15 years of glory and 50 years of emptiness?”

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2. Designer wallpaper is strictly for high rollers

Janice Turner in The Times

on Boris’s interior design

“In upmarket decorating, paint is vodka but wallpaper is cocaine,” writes Janice Turner in The Times. “Just as there’s a ceiling on how much you can charge for distilled potato juice,” she says, “it’s hard to market coloured chemicals at more than £80 a pot.” Wallpaper, on the other hand, “renders users deluded and flamboyant. There are no limits on how much you can blow,” writes Turner. “You may lose perspective just thumbing those sample books, as heavy and self-important as ancient scrolls. Yes, of course my living room must be a sultan’s boudoir embossed in red and gold! How can my children thrive unless art-deco monkeys swing from their walls?” “Friends feign awe but later say: ‘Blimey, that pattern is a bit much…’,” Turner writes. “Not that the occupants of the No 11 flat will care.”

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3. 100 days in, the West’s enemies already see Biden as a soft touch

Con Coughlin in The Telegraph

on US foreign policy

“US President Joe Biden’s overriding priority has been to distance his administration from the rancour and division that came to define the Donald Trump era,” writes Con Coughlin in The Telegraph. But “Mr Biden’s early interventions on some of the key challenges facing the West point to him being a weak leader who is desperate to avoid confrontation at all costs”, argues Coughlin. “By far the most worrying decision the Biden administration has taken so far is the announcement that all American forces are to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by September 11,” a decision taken “while delicate negotiations are still taking place over a peace deal to end the fighting”. The move “certainly creates the impression that the president is more interested in avoiding confrontation than protecting American interests”, Coughlin concludes.

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4. Covid has shown the subjective nature of risk perception

Jemima Kelly in the Financial Times

on post-pandemic caution

“Despite many countries having since restricted the AstraZeneca vaccine, polling suggests it has had little impact on the way Britons perceive the risk of taking it,” notes Jemima Kelly in the Financial Times. The polling is in “stark contrast to the way the jab is now perceived in European countries”, Kelly writes. That’s despite the fact that the “hard data” on the vaccine’s effects remain the same “wherever you are”. “Could it be that something else – a kind of British patriotism or, conversely, anti-British sentiment – is also having an impact on the way the risk is perceived?” she asks. It has been well established that our “emotions play a role in the way that we evaluate risk, and that humans are not able to simply weigh up the numerical chances of various outcomes and, robot-like, arrive at a decision”.

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5. Did homophobia lead to Arlene Foster’s downfall?

Stephen Donnan-Dalzell in The Guardian

on the out-of-touch DUP

“I would hardly call Arlene Foster an ally to the LGBTQ+ community,” writes Stephen Donnan-Dalzell in The Guardian. “That being said, I think it’s fair to assume that under her leadership, the DUP moved further away from the fire and brimstone rhetoric of the days of former first minister Ian Paisley.” Foster’s abstention from a vote to ban conversion therapy in Northern Ireland has been seen by some of the party hardliners as the “straw that broke the camel’s back”. But if the “evangelical wing of the DUP thinks that lurching further to the right on these issues will win back their voter base, they are more out of touch than I assumed”. “Whoever is pulling the strings may think that ousting Foster and replacing her with someone more hardline on all of these issues is the road to victory, but I suspect they have failed to read the room.”

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