HAVE YOUR SAY: Do Norwich City stars deserve to be called heroes?

In the EDP's coverage of Norwich City's promotion to the Premiership, some of our readers have taken umbrage at our describing the Canaries' players as 'heroes'.

We have been taken to task by readers who feel well-paid footballers are not worthy of that label when true heroes are the soldiers who risk their lives fighting for their country.

A debate has raged on our letters page and today two EDP reporters go head to head in the hero debate.

Matthew Sparkes - Norwich City players talented, but not heroes


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Unless the squad quietly sloped off between games to serve as battlefield medics in Afghanistan, rebuild Japan's shattered infrastructure or donate vital organs to strangers, they are not heroes.

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To me a hero is someone who displays remarkable bravery or skill under difficult circumstances, someone who selflessly risks their safety for others.

These men showed talent, certainly, but were under no greater threat than a twisted ankle.

Calling them heroes is not only inaccurate, but an insult to those who live up to the title.

More than that, there is an inconvenient truth that seemed to be lost on tens of thousands of fans this week as they peered up to the balcony of City Hall through a cloud of green and yellow to cheer the squad: most of these men have no connection to the city, and no strong bond to the fans.

We hold them aloft as heroic figures, but many would be playing for another club tomorrow if the pay was right.

The hero label is just another sign of a current trend in stripping words of their power through overuse.

Now every advance in medial science is a 'miracle', every accident a 'tragedy' and every challenge 'epic'.

Fine. But I draw the line at calling a squad of men who managed to kick a ball into a net more times than the other group of men heroes.

Admittedly, they have done a great deal of good for the city; they have given us something to distract us from job cuts, slashed council budgets and rocketing inflation.

Perhaps this is why we cling to this victory so tightly. There is little else to celebrate at the moment, but now we all get to vicariously enjoy a year in the limelight.

There is no harm in that, as long as we keep it in context: what they have done is their job.

But, for all my grumbling, I do believe that sportsmen and women can become heroes.

Take Eug�ne Christophe, who in 1913 was set for victory in the Tour de France, then a gritty trek over gravel mountain roads on heavy bikes with rudimentary brakes and one gear.

He was doing well when his forks snapped without warning.

His reaction showed real heroism - he carried his bicycle ten kilometres to a blacksmiths and over the next three hours fixed his own forks, because the rules forbid outside help.

He managed to catch up to the pack and secure seventh place.

If anyone on the Norwich squad had faced odds like this to claw their way into the premier league, and shown that level of grit and courage, then I may not be writing this piece.

But they didn't, and I am.

Dan Grimmer - Canaries are heroes in my book

A team of footballers did what they were paid a stupid amount of money to do this season. Once, or occasionally, twice, a week, they competed against other teams, chased a ball around a big patch of grass and kicked it between two posts often enough to get them promoted to a higher league.

Yes, from a completely dispassionate viewpoint, that's what Norwich City's footballers did this season. And from that perspective, there's no way on earth they deserve to be called heroes.

Only snag is that we supporters don't see it quite that clearly. We're blinded by the joy, the anxiety, the delight, the tension, the heartache, the exhilaration and the sheer pleasure which comes from following our local team.

To us, those players have been heroes this season. We have pinned our collective hopes and dreams on them and they have not let us down. Their deeds will go down in the city's history.

Yes, they're paid obscene amounts of money for what they do and don't have half the worries the rest of us have, but they make us feel good and proud about the place we are from.

If you're still not sold, let's get pedantic. The Oxford Dictionary definition of a hero is 'a man noted or admired for nobility, courage, outstanding achievements, etc.' Sir Isaac Newton is given as an example of a 'hero of science'.

Okay, so 23-goal striker Grant Holt hasn't defined gravity, although some fans might believe our club's rapid rise through to the Premier League defies it,

But the Canaries are certainly men admired for their outstanding achievements. Why else would thousands of people take to Norwich's streets to applaud them?

And contrary to some of our readers, I don't believe that calling Norwich City players heroes denigrates in any way the bravery of our armed forces. It's just I don't see why the term hero has to be reserved for the battlefield.

I know that a soldier who risks his or her life to serve his country is heroic in a way that our pint-sized midfielder Wes Hoolahan simply is not and almost certainly never will be. I'm not stupid.

But I also know our readers aren't stupid. We all realise that there's an enormous distinction between being prepared to give up your life for your country and living a luxurious lifestyle while winning a few football matches.

However, in the case of the Canaries and to pinch a sentiment from David Bowie (who, perish the thought, might even be a musical hero to some) - surely they can be heroes, just for one day?

But enough about us, what do you think? Let us know by commenting below and taking our online poll. You can also join the debate by writing to EDP letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or by emailing EDPLetters@archant.co.uk

And for those of you who are football fans, make sure you get the EDP today for your free 48-page Canary Review of the Season!

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