What becomes of our players?

As is the case in any professional sport, a footballer’s livelihood depends on financial gain. Some players are clever about their finances while others are more wasteful, but one thing that no player can escape is that inevitable time when playing football for a living is no longer an option.

It is at this point when players often come to a critical crossroads. After living and breathing nothing but football for their entire adult lives, players must now take their next step.

Often management is an attractive option for these players. It provides them with an opportunity to stay close to the game, and provides a steady income.

But the art of management is not something that is learned overnight. If a player wants to become a manager, he must be prepared to put in the same amount of effort as he did when impressing scouts and coaches on his way to becoming a footballer. This will take time, dedication and a willingness to learn on the player’s part. And, more importantly, the financial gains will not be immediate.

This is often enough to scare retirees away from football, but these players need to realize that any job requires a period of training where a specific set of skills is acquired. Football management is no different.

In South Africa, I feel that more should be done to look after players once they have retired. Not everybody can make the transition into management, and there are simply not enough jobs going around to cater for everybody.

If one looks at our structures at school, youth and club level, it is clear that there are many areas where the experience and expertise of a retired professional would be constructive.

Maybe a programme should be put in place that seeks to make the best use out of our retired professionals. Why should a former player rely solely on coaching or the odd television appearance to get by? Football needs all sorts of tradesman. Doctors, physiotherapists, lawyers, accountants, agents, youth developers, talent scouts … the list goes on.

But in order for the former player’s new journey to be successful, two things need to happen. Firstly, the possibilities and end goals must be explained to him. Through a club, the local football association or a special programme, there needs to be a path put in place for him to follow. And secondly, and even more importantly, the player needs to acknowledge that success in his new field will have to be earned.