Football: Leave kids alone to enjoy their game, Gary Lineker urges parents

LONDON (REUTERS) - Former England international Gary Lineker has condemned the "utterly depressing behaviour" of ambitious parents who rant and rave on the touchline while trying to turn their children into football stars.

The 52-year-old presenter of the BBC's flagship Match of the Day programme said in an article in the New Statesman magazine that their behaviour was wrecking their children's confidence and stifling their development.

Lineker, who is England's second-highest scorer with 48 goals and was never booked or sent off in his career, wrote: "The competitive nature of most mums and dads is astounding. The fear they instil in our promising but sensitive Johnny is utterly depressing."

He called for a "parental cultural revolution" and said if they let their children enjoy themselves, parents would be "staggered at the difference it would make".

"There is a breed of parent I have seen who hurl ridiculous abuse at officials or even the young player they are meant to be supporting. It's as if they are living their own dreams through their kids," he added.

He said the way children played encouraged "big lads" to lump the ball forward and was one of the reasons for the malaise of the English game.

"It's obvious why we have a long-ball culture: The big lads who kick it furthest are the ones who stand out. What chance for the diminutive yet gifted midfielder?

"No chance of him developing his tiki-taka football," said Lineker in reference to the short-passing, possession-focused style of play.