First of all, I would like to thank the wonderful admins of Kickette for sharing the link to the survey that was used to create this article on their Twitter page, which quadrupled the number of responses.
96 different women (and one male Facebook friend, being silly) answered seven questions about the men and boys they liked when they were teenagers, those they like now, and their favourite footballers. There are many things I wanted to get a handle on by running this survey. I wanted to do it about football because I like football. You could do it with anything. Perhaps a parallel survey could tell us about how those of us who like footballers differ from those who like boy-bands, although, reading the aforementioned Kickette and puzzling over why anyone would drool over Gareth Bale or Joe Hart, I suspect the results would be similar. Without further ado, here’s what we found.
Question 1: When were you born?
55 respondents, or 56.7%, of respondents were born in the 1980s; 21, or 32%, in the ‘90s, and the remaining 11.2% before 1980.
Question 2: When you were a teenager, which footballer did you find most attractive?
20.9% of all respondents, including a whopping 34.5 percent of those born in the 1980s, say that their first football crush was David Beckham. I fail to understand this. Even 16.1% of those born in the 1990s like him, which is a little strange, given that he’s at least fourteen years older than all of them. Having said that, my first football crush was Ian Wright, who’s nearly eighteen years older, but this was considered weird among my peers. I’m sure most of my school friends liked teenage and twenty-something men. Ian Wright did look about ten years younger than he was for most of his career, I suppose. Does Beckham? Hard to tell.
We named 49 different players that we liked. The rest of the top five, after Becks; Michael Owen (7 women liked him), Cristiano Ronaldo (4), and sharing fifth place are Iker Casillas and Kevin Keegan (3 each). I am guessing most of those who said Keegan belong to the small, select group of women born before 1980 who took this survey. While these responses were very useful to me, and will be included whenever I draw conclusions from the general data, I am not going to dwell on their results in great detail, because the numbers make them statistically insignificant.
Question 3: Which characteristics attracted you to this player?
68.8% of women liked a classically good-looking player. This rises to 74.2% among women born in the 1990s, and to 69.1% among those born in the 1908s. Does this mean all the older women have rebelled against society, and we’re not doing very well at following in their footsteps? (I was born in the very early 80s, and I certainly don’t like what I consider ‘classically good-looking’ to be. I’m not quite sure whether my respondents think it’s the same as what I think it is, although I will explore the idea a little further down the page.)
21.9% liked their man because he was a good boy; 16.7% liked him because he was bad. Pretty evenly matched then. I’m surprised the figures are so similar, ‘cos the bad boys are always catching my eye, and I’m sure the majority of my acquaintances usually think I’m weird for liking them.
40.6% say they liked their football crush because ‘he was charismatic and interesting’. One person applied this to Alan Shearer. I don’t know which planet she comes from, but each to their own.
Very few respondents said that they liked their player of choice either because he came from a similar or different background from them, or had similar political or religious views. Just 2.1% knew about, and liked, the political or religious views of their favourite player. However, as adults, 41.2% of the same women factor religious and political conviction into their choice of partner, including 25.8% of those born in the 1990s. This either suggests that such convictions become increasingly important throughout the teens, or that women don’t care about these things when they’re just looking at a footballer. Further research would be required to find out which of these possibilities is closest to the truth.
Question 4: What did your friends think of the player you named in question 3?
This was followed by question 5, “Which of the following statements applied to you as a teenager?” All the possible answers were about whether or not the respondents’ friends generally liked the same boys and men as they did. The possible answers were very similar to those in question 4, but applied to all men, not just one footballer.
60.4% of respondents said their friends agreed with their choice of man; 19.8% said they disagreed. Really? None of my friends ever liked the players I liked, and vice versa. At the moment, I’m crushing on a certain player who wears sky blue, though possibly not for much longer. Of my friends, only my sister thinks he’s very attractive, although some other friends concede that he’s cute, especially when that rare smile appears. 16.7% of women’s friends went so far as to say they were weird for liking that guy, and I’m surprised that figure isn’t higher.
When it comes to the men we generally went for as teenagers, rather than our first football crushes, 43.3% usually like the same men and boys as their friends; 42.2% do not. The two figures are much closer than those concerning whether we like each other’s footballers of choice. Maybe this is because celebrities divide opinion, or we only see one side of their character portrayed in the media, whereas if we’re talking about a man at work or a boy at school, the whole friendship group will probably know enough about the guy to make an informed judgement.
5.6% of friends thought our respondents’ football crushes were too nice. Only 2.2% thought they were too wild. However, we later find that 20% found their friends’ general crushes too boring. Does that mean that twenty per cent of the population have a rebellious streak? Only 5.6% found these general crushes too wild. (A much higher 12.4% thought their friends liked unconventional boys and men, so we don’t necessarily equate being a little bit different with being crazy, or unapproachable.)
8 out of 17 women who offered additional information about their football crush of choice said that their friends did not know and/or care about him! I didn’t think of adding, “they didn’t care” as an answer choice. Maybe I should have done. I know that at least one of those who responded in this way was from the US, which makes sense.
Next time, we will look in depth at issues of nationality, ethnicity, conformity and rebellion!