Only A Game? Are you kidding Justin Byrne?

Ferrari F1 driver, Fernando Alonso, was encouraged to enjoy racing when he was a young child.
Ferrari F1 driver, Fernando Alonso, was encouraged to enjoy racing when he was a young child.

If Justin Byrne had have been my football coach when I was younger I probably would have never kicked a ball.

Byrne was sacked as manager of Chalfont St Peter’s Football Club in Buckinghamshire U10s earlier this week because of his win at all costs attitude.

Justin Byrne.

Justin Byrne.

I am all for embracing the competitive side of life. There’s not much point in sticking your head in the sand and pretending that a cut throat society doesn’t exist.

Whether it’s football or Formula One motor racing, you tend to find the individuals who go on to succeed do so because, not only are they ridiculously talented, but they absolutely love their sport.

I can understand a win at all costs attitude when it comes to playing in the final of the World Cup or competing in a Grand Prix but when it comes to U10 football surely the focus should be on encouraging the children to have fun.

Byrne’s U10 team may have been successful but that’s not the point. Who cares who won what at U10 level. It’s not important. What is important, is that the children taking part in the sport must enjoy what it is they are doing - the rest will come naturally.

The 42-year-old company director, who had coached the under 10s for more than two years, told parents in an email: “I am only interested in winning. I don’t care about equal play time or any other communist view of sport.

“Those that are not as good need to work harder or demonstrate more during training, or change sports.”

I was and still am absolutely useless at football. I have always enjoyed playing football and other sports but I a foetus with a pair of football boots would possess more skill than yours truly.

I remember when I was younger, like many other Derry youngsters, going along to train with Don Boscos and Tristar.

I never made any of the teams, never played in a competitive match and never scored a goal but did I enjoy myself, you betcha!

Justin Byrne should know that just because one child is not as good as another child at football does not mean that he or she does not benefit from playing the sport.

My lack of skill for football never dampened my spirits. In fact, I am 32 years-old next year and I will be playing indoor football later this morning. God loves a trier.

I came to accept my lack of physical prowess with ease but playing football, whether it be with a club or with friends, not only provided me the best childhood I could have imagined, it encouraged me to make friends and get out of my comfort zone of sitting at home playing ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ on the Sega Mega Drive.

Young boys and girls don’t and shouldn’t understand the whole cut throat nature of the world. They deserve to remain as innocent as possible but it’s people like Justin Byrne who would have them competing against one another like bitter political rivals from an early age.

It’s fair to say that Byrne and other mums and dads like him are simply using their own children to reclaim some sort of lost fantasy of making the team or winning the cup.

Instead of being so selfish they should simply encourage the young children to enjoy playing, to enjoy training and to enjoy being part of a team. The rest, will take care of itself.