‘An educated football player is able to better understand himself, the world and the game’

Former professional football player João Paiva received his diploma for the international edition of the Master in Coaching at the Johan Cruyff Institute in September and started last summer in his new position as Player Relations Manager at the Swiss Association of Football Players.

As a former professional footballer for, among others, Sporting Club de Portugal (where he played together with Cristiano Ronaldo) and Grasshopper Club Zurich, João Paiva acquired sufficient experience to be selected last summer to become the new Player Relations Manager at the Swiss Association of Football Players (SAFP). The likeable Portuguese former striker is an expert and will be able to help the players a lot.

“I know the players and the environment well and I am convinced that the services of the SAFP are very useful for its members. In my position, I am the direct contact for the players to guide them in all our SAFP activities such as providing legal advice about their contracts, increasing the possibilities for them to invest their time in education, preparing the players for their future after their career, and organizing workshops about insurance policies and tax declarations, personal finance and health, which are important subjects for professional football players,” says João enthusiastically.

Life as a player in the professional football world is special, but also tough. That is why it is particularly important for footballers that organizations like the SAFP exist to protect their rights and actively support them in various areas. As João says: “It is extremely important what we do at the SAFP. When I played for the Grasshoppers, I had problems with my contract and I was able to turn to them for legal assistance. As a result, I also had the opportunity to study and, thanks to them, I was able to successfully complete a bachelor’s degree alongside my active football career.”

João Paiva - an educated football player is able to better understand himself, the world and the game - Johan Cruyff Institute

João Paiva

And yet, education is a problem in international football. “Players need better education, especially for their future after their football career. An educated player is able to better understand himself, the world and the game. That is why coaches and directors should focus on enhancing the uniqueness of the players and not forcing them to be all the same.”

João also has a clear opinion about professionalization within football and where it should go in the future. “I think football has certainly improved in terms of professionalism, but the future is to understand that well-educated and intelligent people will improve the quality of the game. It doesn’t matter if you are a player, a coach or a member of staff. The game will be better if people understand it better. As an example, I believe players should always understand why they are doing a drill, instead of just being told to do the drill.”

The former professional footballer, who still thinks back to his time as a professional player and misses the changing room culture, was not done with studying after he completed his bachelor’s degree. In addition to his current position at the SAFP, he is also the trainer of FC Dietikon, partner club of the Grasshoppers, and so he decided to study the international edition of the Master in Coaching at the Johan Cruyff Institute in February. “That was an amazing journey! It was fantastic to pursue the same goal – namely to be become a better person and a better coach – with such a diverse group. It has made me realize that I can help players find their own way by really listening to them. Today I use the power of the one-to-one coaching experience, and how it complements managing an entire team. Understanding a player´s reasons, motivations, ambitions, thoughts and problems, enables me to establish a strong relationship with my players who see me as someone they can trust and who will help them to explore their personal development. Their personal development always affects their personal performance on the pitch,” concludes the studious coach.

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