Can you be a world-class football player and a good dad?

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Can you be a world-class football player and a good dad?

by Mary Robbins


About 80 per cent of men in the world will be fathers. ( under a Creative Commons Licence)

Luis Suarez got more goals than anyone else in the Premier League last year. He kisses his right hand for every goal he gets for Liverpool or the Uruguayan national team. The kisses are for his wife and two children: Delfina, aged three, and Benjamin, seven months. ‘I kiss my wedding ring for my wife, I kiss my wrist for my daughter and now, with Benjamin I kiss here. I have my wife and two children; I kiss three fingers for them.’

Suarez got a lot of media attention before the FIFA World Cup (happening now in Brazil). His critics and fans are all thinking about what he will do in Uruguay’s matches. Some newspapers are talking about his bad behaviour in the past. But most journalists have not written about the big change in Suarez in football and his life since he became a father. He has changed slowly. Fans have seen this in Uruguay and in Liverpool – where he lives with his family in the football season. He broke records last year in the Premier League and now he’s playing for Uruguay in the World Cup. It is clear that it's good for his football to be a father.

Suarez was a successful football player in Uruguay, and then he moved to the Netherlands to play for Groningen in 2006. The next year he moved to the country’s biggest team, Ajax. In a match in 2011, he bit a player in the other team. He had to pay a fine and they stopped him playing for a while; he said he was sorry, and: ‘I want to be famous for great goals, not biting.’ Two years later Suarez bit another player in a Liverpool-Chelsea match. Fans were shocked at this. Suarez promised that he would never lose control again. Since then, he has had 15 months of good behaviour.

About 80 per cent of men across the world will be fathers some time in their life. Brazilian NGO Promundo has done a lot of research on how important fathers are in the development of their children and the happiness of their family. The International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) studied what men think and do as partners and caregivers in more than 20,000 families in different countries. This shows that men are not naturally violent. Men learn violence if they see it in their homes and local areas when they are children (the survey found that boys who saw a man hit their mother when they are children were most likely to use violence as an adult). But people can learn to be violent, and people can change and stop being violent. Luis Suarez is an example of that kind of change.

ESPN, the New York Times and other newspapers will continue to talk about the violence of Suarez and other footballers. These international newspapers can continue to show football players as violent. But Suarez is an example of the positive effects of being a father. We celebrate our football teams in Brazil and we should also celebrate the men who play football and then go home at night to put their children to bed, like the rest of us.

Mary Robbins is a programme officer at Instituto Promundo in Rio de Janeiro. Promundo works internationally with men and boys to bring equality between men and women and end violence against women. Find out about their MenCare campaign: - supporting men in being fathers in 25 countries.

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