“80% of 16-18 year olds sitting in the English Premier League Academies will have NOTHING to do with futbol by the age of 23.”
Let me repeat that one more time.
“80% of 16-18 year olds sitting in the English Premier League Academies will have NOTHING to do with futbol by the age of 23”.
Folks, that is not playing in 3rd or 4th division. That is no involvement with futbol in any capacity. That breaks my heart and is something I simply can’t wrap my head around. How in a matter of 5 years can something - that they are arguably the best in their country or other countries - become non existent in their lives?!
That is a question that we should all ponder …
You see, as I think about my time at Soccerex Europe, about the incredible things and community they are building, the quote above is the one that stuck out to me from my time there. Because, where I am quite early into my retirement, my career is still something that I cherish. Not so much for the trophies won, but more for the things that I learned through this beautiful game - of the 7 different cultures that I have come to appreciate and for the things that we as Pros have an obligation to share.
That also goes for the four incredible men that I had honour of sharing the stage with for our exclusive Soccerex panel.
I mean I almost had to laugh as Pedro Pinto (the long time CNN sports anchor) introduced us, because he started with the statement, “on this stage sits more than 48 international and domestic trophies.”
I mean, until recently, there was not so much ‘hardware to my name.’ Worldly experiences yes, but not so much physical trophies. Now I was among World Cup members, European Champions, La Liga Champions, Portugese Legends, and Premiere League winners, and for a small town country girl from Urbana, IL, that ain't too shabby!
However, more than their ‘on-field’ accomplishments, I was impressed with the men that they were. We all had our own reasons for being there. However, our job for that day was to inform the pubic on how life was after futbol or, as many call it, after the ‘Big Stage.’ What were some of our hardships as we made that transition away from the game, and some of the advice we would give to the next generation?
Of course, as I sat on this stage with many of these (presumably!) millionaires who have played in front of thousands upon thousands of people, I had to humbly accept that our realities were/are different. Nonetheless the lessons, the things that we have learned, and what we have taken away from our own careers are very important.
Before I give a couple examples, it is important for everyone to understand something. To understand that even between 4 Ex futbollers, our desires for what’s next, for what we experienced, for the advice we would give, is a variety BUT a variety that young men and women should understand. For example, for Paulo Ferreira and I, it was important to get our coaching badges because it is our dream to stay in the game in ‘that’ capacity. For Nuno Gomes, at 38, it was important to him to go back to University and not only get his degree but Masters as well. Then for Christian Karembeu and Louis Saha, they had their own ideas on how to try and unite the futbol world with the old and the new. To create different platforms to allow futbollers to really understand their strengths with and without fubtol.
Some more examples are when we were asked, ‘what did we miss the most!?’ Our answers, once again, varied. However Nuno's answer was one that resonated with all of us. And honestly, I am a bit upset I never thought about it myself ha.
Nuno said that soon after his retirement, he found himself missing the locker room the most. That he missed it so much, that he actually came up with the idea to head to his local gym to simply be able to have that same ambience. I am sure to you that sounds a bit odd. I mean, what human being goes to the gym just to shower with everyone else, right?! But as you looked down our panel, all you could see was all of us nodding in agreement. For most of our lives, the locker room was our second home. A place where we actually spend most of our lives and a place where relationships were made like no where else in our world.
After that, you also had Christian talking about the reasons of why he actually decided to walk away from the game. Where, for him, it was the decision of letting his body and his mind be healthy. I think many people don’t understand the amount of pressure and strain that Futbol can cause on your life. I think, as women, we are actually lucky in this comparison with the men since, for example, if one of us misses a penalty in a World Cup to lose a game, we won’t be coming home to death threats on our front door. However, for these men, the abuse they have had to go through in their careers is something that many of us can never imagine, and frankly, what many of us should never want to imagine.
For Paulo and Louis, it was a harder decision to walk away, but they had both been in the game a long time and understood their time was coming. It is never easy for someone to change what they have known for their whole life. We go from the glory of being ‘under the lights,’ to in the end trying to navigate ourselves out of the darkness from when all those stadium lights went out. Unfortunately for many, this is also a time where you do it alone and that is one that can be very lonely. And trust me when I say this, it does not matter how many zeros you have after your name, it doesn’t make this transition any easier.
I know that because it took me until 31 to finally put some zeros behind my name and to not worry about the day to day finances. It took me ten years of giving this sport everything I had to be able to inevitably walk away with my head held high. I can’t sit here and say how or even why I was able to accomplish the things I did, but as most of us futbollers, the ones that seem to make it passed 23, you need a whole lot of luck, stubbornness, and hard work.
So in summary, for the young men out there, for the families, the agents, everyone, please please think of your future. Know the stats and the realities, not to scare you, but to prepare you. And for the women, I will leave you with this …
In the SEMI-FINAL (England vs USA) of this years WORLD CUP, England saw its highest TV rating (of any sport event) in the UK this year!
In the FINAL of this years WORLD CUP, 88% of Holland, 88% of their country, watched the FINAL between the Dutch and USA …
You can watch Ella's full panel discussion from Soccerex Europe 2019 here:
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