Tomorrow, England go head to head with Sweden in the World Cup quarter-final. The high hopes of the nation rest on 11 young men including the captain, Harry Kane.
My kids have had a take-it-or-leave-it attitude towards football for the last few years, but seem to have a real enthusiasm for it now. Perhaps inevitably, their favourite player is Kane. And I couldn’t be happier that this is the case.
This isn’t because I’m a lifelong Spurs fan and he’s one of our own. It’s not because he scores so many goals either. It’s down to the personal qualities he possesses.
This article on BBC Sport is a really good read. It features interviews with people who knew him from childhood right through to the present day. In short though, he seems to be an unassuming chap who never gives up.
Rejected by Arsenal as a kid, he refused to let it get the better of him. Through immense hard work and a willingness to learn his trade via loans in the lower leagues – a route that many a talented young pro has thought below them – he has ended up as England’s talisman.
Even when the press and rival fans branded him a one-season wonder after a slow start to his second full season at White Hart Lane, he let his football do the talking and proved the doubters wrong.
We’ve all seen kids imitating their footballing heroes. But witnessing Ronaldo’s sense of entitlement and Neymar’s gamesmanship in smaller scale is uncomfortable. Yes, they’re easily among the world’s most talented players but football is a team game. There should be no place for ego or feigning injury.
This is why Harry Kane is such a good role model for youngsters.
Yes, he’s driven to score as many goals as he can but this mustn’t be mistaken for greed. He’s someone who’s always looking to better himself and help better his team in the process.
Look how many times he drifted out wide to bring teammates into play against Colombia. Clearly not the behaviour of a glory-hungry prima donna.
Think about how often he tracked back to help in midfield and even defence.
And remember the composure he showed in the face of blatant cheating on Tuesday night. Colombia’s players did everything they could to delay his penalty. Similarly, he gets straight back up when fouled by opponents.
There’s no mock incredulity or writhing around in apparent agony when things don’t go his way. He just gets on with it.
We should all want our children to emulate the personal qualities behind these actions.
Harry Kane represents everything that’s good about football and, indeed, positive personality traits.
Whatever happens in the quarter-final and beyond, I think he has already cemented his place as a national hero. And I’m delighted that my children look up to him.
Who are your kids’ heroes and what do you think of them?