Soccer star demands more music for kids

Soccer star demands more music for kids


norman lebrecht

March 18, 2021

The UK Premiership player Wilfried Zaha has launched a campaign for all children to have a free musical instrument to help them recover emotionally from the Covid-19 crisis.

Report here.



  • christopher storey says:

    What is a premiership ? Does it take long to learn how to play it ?

    • La plus belle voix says:

      About as long as it would take you to realise that your comment is risible even if the issue is not.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    Finally, a footballer’s initiative worth listening to. Plus he refused to take the knee. Good man.

    • FrankUSA says:

      What does “refusing to take the knee” have to with this. This may be particular to the UK but it implies something else in the US. In the US,the “taking the knee” involves sports figures,especially the one who started it all” who kneel while the US national anthem is played at sporting events. This act is to show support/solidarity with the issue of racial relations in the US. Or maybe the UK does not have any problems with racial relations so I guess that “taking the knee” means something else. Maybe it’s connected to the TV show “Game of Throne” in which this phrase was used quite often.

      • Derek H says:

        To inform – a summary of the background.

        The Premier League is the major soccer league in England.
        All players in the teams are “taking the Knee” prior to the start of each game as an act of solidarity and support for racial equality.
        This has been going on ever since the death of George Floyd and some think that the point has been made, the gesture has lost impact and may become counterproductive.
        A number of players and some teams have decided not to continue and feel more practical issues should be the focus now.

        Wilfried Zaha is a very talented footballer who also appears to have a creative and constructive outlook on life.

    • V.Lind says:

      Are you suggesting Marcus Rashford’s initiative for free school meals was not? Excuse me if I think the priority is to make sure a kid does not go hungry before you pop a guitar in his hands (though I admire this initiative, too, and suspect suggestions from footballers seem to carry a lot of weight).

      • La belle plus voix says:

        The straw man fallacy. Did anyone mention Rashford?

        • V.Lind says:

          Then what is this supposed to mean? “Finally, a footballer’s initiative worth listening to.” Marcus Rashford’s initiative was radical, sustained and, in my expressed view, well worth listening to,

          • Anthony Sayer says:

            Well-intended maybe, but it’s the job of parents to feed their children, not governments. Some parents are in difficult situations but that should not absolve them of their duty to provide. Ironically, Rashford’s situation is a case in point; the hardship may well have been part of the key to his success.

  • Bostin'Symph says:

    What an excellent idea. And how nice that it has come from a footballer: somehow advocacy from a non-musical source lends this plea just that little bit more weight.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Nobody knows and understands better the importance of music education for kids than a professional footballer. And a preference for classical music is a well-kept secret in the field: quite a number of unsuspected players lock themselves up after a match in a sound-proof room to listen to their recordings of Beethoven and Brahms chamber music, and Fauré songs and, occasionally, the late piano sonatas of Scriabine. But shame, and ignorance among their peers, result in too few players who dare risk their career with a coming-out, and it is to be hoped that a more open and tolerant attitude in the sports will, in the long run, create a more welcoming and understanding environment. It is for this reason that music education is seen as so important. We know the story of [redacted] of Manchester United who was driven to despair because of the denigrating remarks and sneering comments in the locker room, so that he prematurely gave-up his career and became a porter in a nursing home.

    • V.Lind says:

      Your point is well taken, but is this player one of them? I don’t know, but he may well see a whole different set of notes, so to speak, when he says “music.” Can’t access The Times, but I see no indication that he is promoting classical music.

      Doesn’t make his initiative wrong.

    • Jonathon says:

      What a ridiculous, smug and patronising comment. I can think of many sportsmen who have openly expressed a love of classical music, and some who went on to have a 2nd career in classical music, for example Nielsen Taylor who played for Fulham and Huddersfield and then had a fantastic career as a baritone, singing at Covent Garden, Glyndebourne etc.

      • John Borstlap says:

        I agree. This snobbery about distinctions denies the value the sports bring to art! My uncle Sebastian was a professional boxer before he specialized in playing Stockhausen’s piano pieces, his clusters were so much more expressive. And another uncle of mine, who was a chess champion in East Germany, became a serial composer and although nobody wanted to perform his music, the family greatly enjoyed his explanations at birthday parties. And I know of a neighbour of one of my aunts, who divides his time between fox hunting and playing Webern, he said the one is letting-off steam for the other.


    • J Parry says:


  • RW2013 says:

    A large screen showing football in a classy concert hall.

    • Brettermeier says:

      “A large screen showing football in a classy concert hall.

      I remember an open-air opera performance with a public viewing of an important European Championship soccer match nearby. Whenever there was cheering or groaning in the background, we would display the (match 😉 ) score in the surtitles.

      It was a fun night. Great music. And we won that game.

  • Fred Funk says:

    Look for a glut of used violas….. Just saying….

  • Christopher Clift says:

    I never realised how cynical so many commenters on SD really are!

    Did everyone sneer at The Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, when he launched his campaign for free school meals?

    Why poke fun at the Crystal Palace player Wilfried Zaha, who has put forward HIS scheme to help (particularly) younger members of our community, who may, or may not (it doesn’t matter which way the coin drops in this case) have suffered emotionally because of the Covid-19 pandemic and all its consequences.

    For heaven’s sake give these sorts of initiatives some support instead of ridicule.

    I come from a very working-class background, but I had the support of my school teachers and managed forty years of professional violin playing. Who knows what ANY of the youngsters Zaha proposes to help in this way may achieve in music – but they won’t get anywhere in the face of such cynicism.

    • John Borstlap says:

      True – there is much too much cynicism here and a conspicuous lack of human warmth. Therefore I belive many of SD’s commentators are not music lovers at all.

    • Steve says:

      “I never realised how cynical so many commentators on SD really are.” You must be new to this forum. May I be the first to welcome you?

      • Christopher Clift says:

        Please don’t patronise! My opening sentence was meant to provoke! It certainly worked with you Stephen. And it’s Norman’s prerogative to welcome contributors to this forum!

        • Steve says:

          I’m sorry that you took my comment, which was intended as a humorous observation on the general tone on this forum, as a personal attack. It certainly wasn’t intended that way and I apologise unreservedly since that’s how it was received.

    • Tony Britten says:

      Hear hear. And let’s not assume that football and classical music are incompatible. In 2001 I was invited by UEFA to conduct my Champions League anthem for the final in Milan, between Bayern Munich and Valencia. I was lucky enough to have the chorus of La Scala to perform the piece, timed to happen just before kick off, as usual. We had also asked them to sing something about half an hour before then to fit in with the whole operatic theme that we had adopted across the city. They chose to perform ‘Va Pensiero’ unaccompanied and just before they were due to appear, a worried UEFA official told me I had to cancel them – the crowd were too noisy and it would all go horribly wrong. I refused and the chorus started singing amidst the cacophony of the over excited fans. Swiftly the crowd quietened down and even the beer swilling Munich fans were shamed into silence. Yes – silence – 80,000 fans and you could have heard a pin drop. It was magical and unforgettable.
      I don’t hold with ‘dumbing down’ serious music and I am not naive enough to think that every footballer or fan is secretly deeply cultured. But I do suggest that there is magic to be had in music for everyone and some of the more cynical contributors to this site would do well to bear that in mind.
      And Bravo to Wilfried Zaha, who is clearly a fine man as well as a fine footballer. Initiatives like his put governments to shame.

  • CarlD says:

    Wonderful idea from a thoughtful public figure. Zaha’s stance on “taking a knee” suggested that the symbolism has run its course and that as a Black man he also feels he shouldn’t bow down to anybody, so to speak.

    • FrankUSA says:

      I can’t access the Times article so it “Seems” that Zaha made a statement about “taking the knee.” So,should we assume that everyone who”takes the knee” is ONLY doing it symbolically. Is it possible that some of those who “take the knee” also may do things beyond that to help better the world outside of the sport stadium. Lastly,I certainly commend Zaha for doing something for the community.

    • FrankUSA says:

      I live in the US so I knew nothing about Zaha until I read this post on SD. I could not access the Times article attached to the SD post. But in the last few hours I did some online research and began to get a bigger picture. This story about Zaha/not taking the knee/not wearing BLM shirts etc seems to be a big story in the UK. I commend Zaha for making his musical instrument contribution but why did it happen 5 days after the incident(not taking the knee). There may be some cynical people who might call this “damage control.” Anyway,this will be my last comment on this subject.

      • La plus belle voix says:

        Quite. It might well be PR spin after an uproar. But if the result is good, should we question that?

        • Anthony Sayer says:

          Quite the opposite of damage control, I’d say. Not taking the knee was excellent, refusing to wear BLM on his shirt even better and the music initiative worthy of a medal. It just depends how you want to view the story and the (imported, irrelevant) issues at stake.

  • Marfisa says:

    “Zaha, who tells The Times that he always listens to hip-hop and Fleetwood Mac before games, says: “Now more than ever we need to support children. They’ve had it tougher than most over the last year.

    “Music can bring so much joy to so many and enabling more children to have access to instruments and teaching can only benefit them.”

    SD commenters might prefer it if he listened to Mozart or Mahler, but anything that gets kids through this crisis, and helps them to become players (of any sort of music) rather than passive listeners, is a great idea. How about more support for music teaching in schools, too, UK government?

    • Allen says:

      “and helps them to become players (of any sort of music)”

      Surely that doesn’t include the misogynistic variety?

      • Marfisa says:

        If that is a comment about hip-hop/rap (and not about the unacceptable ways women are represented in many operas), then I recommend you read the article “Misogyny in Rap Music. A Content Analysis of Prevalence and Meanings” ( One of the authors’ conclusions: “… we want to emphasize that misogyny does not characterize rap music as a whole. This is an important finding in itself. A majority of songs in our sample do not degrade women, and there are rappers who actively challenge rap’s misogynistic messages and endorse a more egalitarian form of masculinity.” I suspect most classical musicians (myself included) have very little knowledge of hip-hop culture, of which rap music is a major element.

  • Mystic Chord says:

    Mr Zaha is a mercurial talent on the pitch, a legend in SE25 and my home alike, but a little cynicism is understandable.

    Who knows whether this campaign was Wilf’s idea or dreamt up by the very ‘effective’ talent agency who represent him.

    But at the end of the day if it generates strong publicity for such a worthy cause it can only be for good.

  • SamK says:

    Wonderful news!!! Wonderful initiative. Lebron James donating millions to send kids to colleges. We need more of these famous(and rich ) athletes to help the future of humanity by donating and advocating for the education of our future generations.

  • La plus belle voix says:

    Apart from the cynicism met (as so often) on SD, nobody seems to wish to scratch beneath the surface of the story. The work done by Restore the Music UK is surely laudable, and the initiative shown by Wilfried Zaha, who is represented by Roc Nation, must surely be greeted, but perhaps the stance of the charity and the PR agency respectively should be questioned. Is this mere positioning in the market? How do these organisations link up on a daily basis with instrument makers, purveyors of second hand musical instruments, or educational schemes based on real needs? And there is a host of other factors besides . . . It is disappointing that both outfits see fit to not post telephone contacts or detailed information about actual personnel. Restore the Music has but a single email address. While Roc Nation gives three postal addresses, in LA, NY and London; look in vain for actual people under “discover” or “about”. Best case is that these, for want of a better word, constellations are more B2B and not audience facing; worst case is simply an exercise in good PR.

  • Mecky Messer says:

    The “classical” community has got this “star” thing all wrong. Its supposed to mean that a person is known by a large number of people….Zaha would in no way shape or form qualify as a “star”.

    But then again for some people “Pat Kop” is a “STAR”…..

    Its an alternate reality sometimes