Gary Lineker says pushy parents are “damaging their children” and ruining their chances of making it as footballers.
England striking legend Lineker said he was able to succeed at the highest levels because of the calm demeanour he developed from his own upbringing, insisting: “Nerves are not a thing I feel”.
But he says he sees far too much of the stereotypical pushy football parent, and has this message for them: “Just shut up and let them play.”
“I’m standing on the side-lines and I’m listening to parents shouting and balling,” says Lineker in the latest episode of BBC Sounds podcast Don’t Tell Me the Score.
The Tottenham icon and Match of the Day presenter added: “99.9% of what they say is wrong.
“99.9% of what they say is damaging their children, instilling fear into them. Just shut up and let them play. Even if they had an inkling of making it, they’re reducing their chances.”
Lineker enjoyed a fine career at the top, banging in well over 400 goals for Leicester City, Everton , Barcelona and Tottenham. He won 80 caps for England, won the Golden Boot at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, and is his country’s leading scorer at World Cup tournaments with 10.
And he says he was lucky that he never felt nerves on the pitch – even in penalty shoot-outs.
“Nerves are not a thing I feel, I’ve never felt it,” he said. “The bigger the game the bigger the opportunity… It’s not a boast, it is just a fact I didn’t feel that nervous butterfly thing, even in a penalty shoot-out.
“I’d think, this is a unique opportunity, most human beings will not have this opportunity to show what they’re made of and I used to think – bring it on.”
However, although he is now an accomplished sports broadcaster, Lineker said turning his hand to presenting proved not to be so easy as success on the football pitch.
“When I started Football Focus… there were so many times I used to drive home about 1 o’clock after we finished the show on a Saturday thinking, ‘I’ll just never be able to do this’.
“But then after doing it for two or three years it started to feel a bit more comfortable and I got used to the environment. I was given a lot of support and patience – I owe the BBC for that.”
When asked about whether he thinks tribalism in football can be linked to tribalism in post-referendum Britain, Lineker, known for not shying away from a political debate, said: “Human beings are unbelievably tribal and it is the same as politics for me.
“I find it interesting but also depressing. Football is very tribal and in many ways that is one of the great strengths of football but it can be a bit of a weakness.”
Lineker praised players like Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling for speaking out against racism in football and using his status as a professional footballer for the greater good.
“It is important that footballers express their voice as they have big platforms. Some of them are doing it brilliantly at the moment like Raheem Sterling, like Marcus Rashford, like Danny Rose,” he said.
Don’t Tell Me the Score is the podcast that uses sport to explore life’s bigger questions. Every week Simon Mundie sits down with an expert to discuss a sporting theme that also tells us something important about life, and how best to live it. DTMTS is available to download every Thursday on BBC Sounds.