10 of the best footballers from the past and present celebrated.
Footballers are diving, cheating, snarling, whining, overpaid, super-privileged brats, aren't they?
Well, aren't they? That's what many people believe and perhaps that's true of...a few. They're the ones that create controversy and make entertaining headlines for the newspapers; they're the ones derided as 'bad role models'.
But most footballers are decent, hard-working albeit amazingly gifted people.
And a very special few are simply inspirational: role models that our children should look up to, learn from and emulate.
These 10 – from both the past and present – for example...
Manchester United and England midfielder
In the age of the Look At Me over-sharing celebrity culture, Paul Scholes was the ultimate footballer's footballer: a quiet man on and off the pitch.
His passing, his reading of the game, his ability to fire in rockets from 25 yards marked him out by his peers as one of the greatest midfielders of his generation.
He made 718 appearances for United and earned 66 caps for England and in that illustrious career he won the Treble, 11 Premier League titles, three FA Cups and two UEFA Champions League medals.
All of which is more than enough to mark him out as a role model for our children to aspire to.
But his achievements on the field are the real reason why he makes this list: for after every football match, he returned home to his family, avoiding nightclubs and the paparazzi, to be with his wife Claire and three children – the youngest of whom is autistic.
In his autobiography Scholes: My Story, Paul wrote:"Aiden suffers from autism and has quite severe learning difficulties, so he can't take part in most sports at the moment, though he does absolutely love his swimming.
"He seems in his element when he is in the pool, he's a real water baby and it's wonderful that he's got that to enjoy.
"We hope his condition improves but we're not banking on it, just doing everything we can to make sure he has a happy life. He has a load of people trying to help him, speech and play therapists for example.
"Aiden's in his own little world, and it is some consolation that he does seem content with it."
One of the greatest footballers of his generation – and a brilliant dad.
Manchester City goalkeeper
City goalie Bert broke his neck during an FA Cup final at Wembley in 1956 – but incredibly he played the remaining 17 minutes.
Clearly in agony, he shrugged off the life-threatening injury and went on to make some spectacular saves as his side beat Birmingham City 3-1.
Bert, who died last year at the age of 89, only found out the extent of his injury three days later when X-rays revealed he had dislocated five vertebrae.
Man City striker Francis Lee said: "There was no way he was coming off – there were no subs in those days. He was brave as a lion."
But that match was nothing compared to what Bert had experienced before he became a footballer.
In the Second World War, the German paratrooper fought on the Western Front and the Eastern Front, before being captured by the British and made a Prisoner of War. He won five medals including the Iron Cross.
At the end of the war he declined the offer of returning to Germany and went on to have four sons, the youngest of whom died in a car crash when he was a little boy.
In 2004, Bert was awarded an OBE for promoting Anglo-German relations.
England and West Ham captain
After Winston Churchill, many regard Bobby Moore as the greatest ever Englishman.
He captained West Ham United for more than 10 years and was captain of the England team that won the 1966 World Cup, earning him an OBE for his services to football.
He is widely regarded as one of the greatest defenders of all time, and was named as a member of the World Team of the 20th Century.
He won a total of 108 caps for the England team, which at the time of his international retirement in 1973 was a national record.
He remained inspirational after his retirement from football when, in February 1993, he announced he was suffering from bowel and liver cancer.
Three days later, he made his last public appearance, commentating on an England match against San Marino at Wembley. Seven days after that, on 24 February, he died at the age of just 51.
But as in life, Bobby remains an inspiration in death.
Soon after her husband died, his wife, Stephanie, established the Bobby Moore Fund, in partnership with Cancer Research UK in 1993.
To date the Fund has raised over £21 million, which has gone towards pioneering bowel cancer research carried out by leading scientists working across the UK.
United States striker
1987 – 2004
Mia Hamm is simply the most famous women's footballer in the world – a veritable suffragette for the popularity of the sport for young women.
She is one of the most successful and decorated women footballers, an ambassador and also an icon for the women's game in the world.
Just look at her achievements:
Her 275 international caps for the United States are the third highest of all time (including the men's game).
She scored 158 international goals - the second highest of all time,
She won the FIFA Women's Player of the Year in 2001 and 2002 - the first two years of its existence.
She also finished second in both 2003 and 2004 before her retirement.
She is one of just two female players to be named to the FIFA 100, commemorating the 125 greatest living soccer players. They were to celebrate FIFA's 100th anniversary in 2004.
Mia won the Women's World Cup twice in 1991 and 1999 and Olympic gold medals twice in 1996 and 2004.
Chelsea and Ivory Coast striker
Didier Drogba was already a Chelsea legend before he scored the goal that took his team into extra time against Bayern Munich in the 2012 Champions League Final – which they then went on to win 4-3 on penalties.
But for all his achievements on the pitch, it is away from football that has made him a role model to millions of children in his home country – and is even credited with playing a vital role in bringing peace to the Ivory Coast.
When the Ivorians qualified for the 2006 World Cup, they were embroiled in a civil war that had plagued the country for five years.
Didier made a desperate appeal for his countrymen to end the war, and his people listened.
A year later, he was appointed by the United Nations Development Programme as a Goodwill Ambassador.
In 2009, he donated a $3 million to the construction of a hospital in his hometown of Abidjan and a year later his peace and charity work led him to being named one of the world's 100 most influential people by Time Magazine.
Not bad for someone who makes a living from simply banging goals into the back of the net!
Peamount United striker
Stephanie Roche rocketed women's football to the attention of the wider public with an outstanding goal that was named the second best in the world.
The 25-year-old Irish footballer received more than one million votes for her extraordinary volley for Peamount United against Wexford in front of 95 fans.
She lost out on the Puskas Award to Colombia's James Rodriquez – but she beat Robin van Persie with his stunning header for Holland in the World Cup.
What an incredible achievement!
She told Sky News: "I am obviously proud as a woman but I am just proud as a footballer to be recognised at this level and for FIFA to see it as a good goal.
"With this goal I had more interest. I came on trial and it worked out. I think the goal kind of helped but I don't think it was the making of it!"
After footage of her volley earned international acclaim, Stephanie moved on to play professionally for French football club ASPTT Albi.
Her strike, which has been seen more than six million times on YouTube, saw her control a cross with her back to goal, flick the ball over a defender and then volley it home.
Watch it here...
Bolton Wanderers midfielder
In March 2012, the nation watched in horror as 23-year-old Fabrice suffered a heart attack during a televised FA Cup match between Bolton and Tottenham Hotspur.
His heart stopped for 78 minutes as doctors desperately fought to save his life.
For weeks after, it was touch and go whether the talented and affable midfielder would come back from the bring.
But he did – and some!
Not only did Fabrice make a full recovery, he went on to become a second-time dad just a year after he almost lost his life.
Fabrice and his wife Shauna were 'elated' after Matthew Josiah was born and described him as a 'blessing'.
Fabrice, who has another son, Josh, six, retired from football five months after he collapsed but his fighting spirit makes him a role model to all our children.
Manchester United, Real Madrid, Paris Saint Germain and England midfielder
Last month, the Advertising Standards Authority said David Beckham wasn't a role model to children.
Ruling on a complaint that the father-of-four was promoting under-age drinking by fronting an ad campaign for whisky, the ASA said: "The shift from football to commercial ventures, as well as his move to play in foreign leagues and subsequent retirement from football, meant that he was no longer likely to hold such appeal to children in 2014."
Oh how we beg to differ.
Whisky drinking aside (a fine tipple, in moderation!), David is not only an icon, but a brilliant role model for children.
His achievements on the football field are extraordinary: he is England's most capped outfield player of all time, having played 115 times, was the first British player to star in 100 Champions League games and captained his country for six years.
But it was the manner in which he played that marked him out: his sheer will to win.
After being sent off for barely touching Argentine Diego Simeone during the 1998 World Cup, he was vilified to such an extent that effigies of him were hanged from lamp posts.
But his determination caused a Phoenix like rising and he was completely exonerated – in fact, elevated to hero status – when he single-handedly dragged England to the 2002 World Cup finals with a last gasp free kick after a match in which he covered every blade of grass.
It's easy to dismiss Becks as a manufactured brand, but there is far more substance behind the man than what's barely hiding in his underpants in those embarrassing ads.
He is a UNICEF ambassador, a patron of the Elton John AIDS Foundation and, of course, played an instrumental part in securing the Olympics for London 2012.
And if that ain't enough role model-ness for you, then how about the fact that after he retirement he revelled in being a housedad to Brooklyn, Romeo, Cruz and Harper who – despite their millions – he insists on keeping their feet on the ground by earning their own way in the world.
Becks, we salute you!
Arsenal Ladies, England and Great Britain striker
At the age of 36, Kelly Smith is England's most experienced woman player. She starred for the national team 117, scoring a record 46 goals, and was a key member of Great Britain's 2012 Olympic team, until she retired from the international stage last week.
She was the first English player to move to America's professional league, having enjoyed a successful college career at Seton Hall University.
And with Arsenal Ladies, she was a key member of their quadruple winning season of 2006–07, Smith scored 30 goals in 34 games across the four competitions.
Amazing achievements, without question, but that isn't why Kelly is a role model on our list: it's the way she has bounced back from serious injury and battled her demons with drink which resulted in a spell in rehab.
How can a drinker be a role model? Read on...
When Kelly moved to the States, her career was virtually destroyed by an anterior cruciate ligament injury – the worst kind.
She slumped into a depression and without family support, she turned to the bottle.
She said: "When I couldn't play through a broken leg, through knee surgery, I'd be drinking, I'd be depressed, I'd be having negative thoughts all the time like, 'I might not ever play again'."
When she returned to the UK she checked into rehab and turned her life around to the extent that she became an England superstar – and was awarded the MBE.
She said: "I don't really believe in God too much but I've definitely been put on this planet to play football and help develop the women's game."
And the greatest role model of all time?
Santos, New York Cosmos, Brazil striker
In Brazil, Pele is more than a hero: he is known simply as O Rei, the King. In football history, he is simply a God.
He's the most successful league goal scorer in the world, with 541 league goals.
He scored an amazing 1,281 goals in 1,363 games and was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for most career goals scored in football.
In 1961, the Brazil President had Pele declared a national treasure.
He began playing for Santos at 15 and the Brazil national football team at 16.
He won three World Cups in 1958, 1962 and 1970 – the only player ever to do so.
And he's the all-time leading goalscorer for Brazil with 77 goals in 92 games.
At club level he's also the record goalscorer for Santos.
Pele's ability to turn on a sixpence and penchant for scoring jaw-dropping goals made him a star around the world.
He retired 1977 and ever since has been a worldwide ambassador for football as well as turning his hand to acting!
But more than anything, Pele is simply the greatest footballer that has ever lived. And greatness is something we all want our children to aspire to.
• Is our writer right? Are there better role models for our children?
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