George Howard from Melbourne Victory, photo: Paul Jeffers
I got into soccer at a really young age. I was probably about four or five. My mum took me to an indoor skating rink where there were just two goals set up at either end. I was hooked from that point and started training with the local league.
I was mad about soccer, growing up in England, especially in the north. Football is such a big topic, it’s all everyone talks about and watches on TV. I’m from a place called Rotherham, which is next door to Sheffield. Sheffield United was always my team.
When I was about 11, I was selected to play for Sheffield United, in the academy. It was amazing, being a young boy selected to play for a team with so much history. It was a great opportunity for me and I learnt a lot.
From Sheffield to Melbourne, with my eye on the ball
I moved to Australia with my family when I was 14, after my dad got a job in Melbourne.
I started playing soccer here as well, joining the Eastern Lions and later signing up to Box Hill United. I also played competition tennis for a couple of years, but it got to a point where tennis was just a hobby. Football was always my main goal.
I was mad about soccer, growing up in England, especially in the north.
I’ve been with Melbourne Victory now for four years. I had two years in the youth team and this is my second year in the senior team as a pro.
Melbourne Victory has been a partner of the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation for the past three years. As the biggest soccer club in Australia, we have a great opportunity to get the message out there that gambling is not a good thing. It can ruin people’s lives.
A strong gambling culture
Maybe it’s because I was young, but growing up in the UK, sports betting wasn’t on my radar. Here it feels like a big part of the Australian culture, and it seems to go hand in hand with the strong drinking culture. There are a lot of companies and online bookies out there promoting sports betting, and a lot of advertisements on TV. I think there’s a much stronger focus on it here than in the UK.
I have no interest in betting. If you’re gambling, you’re never going to be the winner at the end of the day. It’s always the person you’re giving your money to – and you can lose a lot of money. It’s important to understand this, especially if you’re gambling at an early age. If you start in your teens, it’s probably not going to slow down and it could even progress to a bigger problem. In my opinion, don’t bet. Full stop.
If you’re gambling, you’re never going to be the winner at the end of the day.
Gambling in sport is obviously a huge issue that needs to be addressed. At Melbourne Victory we’re doing our best by signing the responsible gambling charter for another two years. But I think all sports, especially ball sports, should step away from betting companies. The game itself is exciting enough!
George Howard and fellow Melbourne Victory player Daniel Georgievski tell us about why they love the game, not the odds: