Too Much Pressure
It’s a 40 yard walk from the centre of the pitch, where the team lines up, to the penalty spot. The goal is 12 yards away and seems to anyone watching to be wide and inviting. But with a giant of a goalkeeper before you and 60,000 fans screaming, it shrinks and shrinks.
Now imagine you are 19 years old, just a couple of years into your professional career, facing the most pressurised moment in your young life. Two of your older and more experience colleagues have just missed their spot kicks (though to be fair one is only a little older and a little more experienced). It is down to you to keep your country’s dream alive.
If you can visualise all of this – and I think it is hard for any of us to do so – then you have some inkling of the weight on young Bukayo Saka’s shoulders at Wembley.
Think of your work – do you have any 19 year old colleagues? Probably not. Most white collar roles only recruit graduates so you may have never worked with someone in their teens.
Think of your family. Are there any late teenagers? How would they handle that situation. I have two teenage sons – one of 17 and 19. I have great faith in them for many things, but even they would admit they wouldn’t want to step up to take the penalty that Saka saw saved.
Sure modern footballers are mollycoddled. They are paid enormous wages, live in luxury and are insulated from the day to say pressures they otherwise would face. Listen to Raheem Sterling talk about the sacrifices his mother made bringing up a family on her own. Listen to how Kalvin Phillips’ mother fought to keep their family together when his father went to prison. Listen to the heart wrenching story Marcus Rashford tells of his mother going short of food so her kids could eat.
Somehow these sportspeople are able to put all this behind them to perform at the highest level.
Sometimes they don’t succeed.
We shouldn’t criticise. We should understand.