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Baku reminds us our top athletes are overgrown infants | Nick Cohen

The sports stars heading to the European Games in Azerbaijan have no comments on the dire politics of the host country

The pretence that sportsmen and women are “role models” is impossible to maintain. It’s not just that no parent tells their teenage children to model their sex lives on premier league footballers or holds up Lewis Hamilton’s flight to a tax haven as a model of good citizenship. To be a member of the sporting “elite” is to live in a state of perpetual childhood without enjoying or even wanting the rights and responsibilities of a grown-up.

A few weeks ago Paul Scholes wrote how he was astonished that Manchester United fans expected players to behave as free adults in a free country and give their opinion about the Glazer family’s takeover of their club. The debt-laden American raiders reduced my team from a side that might have been one of the best in the world to a side that wasn’t even the best in Manchester. Nevertheless, said Scholes: “As an elite sportsman you cannot allow yourself to be sidetracked. It was not up to me who owned the club, and it would never have been appropriate for a player to have got involved in that debate.”

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