Chris Smalling has given an open and honest interview with The Times this weekend where he discussed the impact losing his father to cancer when he was just five-years-old had on him. As a result, he was looking for role models elsewhere as a child.
As an adult now, Smalling is aware of his position of privilege to be able to help others and cites Manchester United teammate, Juan Mata, as someone he can learn a lot from when it comes to charity work and being a good person.
Growing up I never really had a role model. Mr Emiliano, my year-six teacher who took me to some of the trials, because we didn’t have a car, was a role model. Even some of my friends’ dads were role models to me. I could see the mum was happy, the kids were happy, they had everything, they had the car, the internet. We didn’t have a computer until I started working part-time in sixth form as a kitchen porter and then being a waiter. I saved up.
Growing up, I wanted to be known as a good footballer, but once I’ve finished football it’s, ‘Yeah he was a good footballer’ but I want to be known as a good man, who always gave back, never forgot where he came from. I want my son to look up to me, and say, ‘Yes, daddy was a good player but he was someone good too, a role model.’
Juan really set a marker for things like that. He was already one of the most liked people, not just in our team, but in football. He’s such a gentleman.
Smalling has got involved in the Football Beyond Borders. Earlier this week he was Salford City Academy where he watched a FBB inter-schools tournament and presented medals and talked to the students about his own difficult childhood. He had previously visited the FBB offices in London and now can take a more active role since the organisation has moved beyond the capital.
As soon as they talked about expanding FBB to Manchester, I wanted to get involved. That’s been my home for nine years now. My wife’s a proud Manc. I’m going to be here for ever.
A lot of the kids say FBB is like a family, because it takes them away from any stresses at home. So many kids lose their drive and give up so early that I just want to encourage kids to dream. I never gave up.
With Smalling approaching the latter years of his career, with him turning 30 this year, he has begun to think about his future after football. While he doesn’t see himself as a manager, he hopes to continue his work in supporting kids fulfil their potential.
I can’t say coaching or management appeal to me at the minute. I’ve other ventures, business-wise, property, along with things like FBB, helping kids realise their dream. Mentoring is more where my passion is. I want to be remembered as a good man.