International footballers who have been to Johan Cruyff Institute talk about the importance of acquiring knowledge about the business of football during and after their careers in order to continue setting an example outside the boundaries of the pitch
The sports world feeds on idols, who act as examples in a society increasingly hungry for ideals. And football is, in the sports business, the one that brings together the big masses. Clubs, federations and major competitions open the doors to new talent at an increasingly early age. And who controls that these doors do not suddenly close when the glory days are left to memory?
We are impressed to learn that this player who gets thousands of spectators to jump in their seats every weekend has been ‘playing’ since he first started to walk. But being an example in sport is not a part-time job. Nor is it limited exclusively to what happens on the pitch. Why put limits on players who can turn their experience into good management when they retire and can continue to be an example for those who come after?
The players are, after all, the ones primarily responsible for the external image they project. And it is up to them if they continue to be the best, prolonging their stay in the world they know best. “At 27, I realized I had to invest in myself because my football career would not last forever. I started with the course Football Business Fundamentals and when I finished I enrolled in another program.” This reflection from Guram Kashia, a Vitesse defender in the Dutch First Division, was also shared by other colleagues, several of them active international players, who have passed through Johan Cruyff Institute classrooms.
It is the case of Fernando Arce (Dorados de Sinaloa – Mexico), Waldo Ponce (Universidad Concepción – Chile), Yasser Corona (Queretaro – Mexico), Israel Villaseñor (Puebla FC – Mexico), Celso Borges (Deportivo de La Coruña – Spain), Álvaro Saborio (DC United – USA), Iván Corredor (Patriotas FC – Colombia), Memo Ochoa (Málaga CF – Spain), Claudio Riaño (Unión Santa Fe – Argentina), Luis Michel ‘El Gato’ (Dorados de Sinalooa – Mexico), Mauricio Romero (Venados FC – 2ª División Mexico), Marko Vejinovic (Vitesse – Holland), Kelvin Leerdam (Vitesse – Holland) and Lucas Porcar (RCD Espanyol ‘B’ – 2ª B Spain).
“Since I started the Postgraduate in Football Business I’ve realized all the aspects you have to consider to make decisions in sport. You have to see it from the perspective of the sport itself, the business, the marketing, the finance … to meet objectives in each area. All the areas and details are important in this business that moves so many people,” says Memo Ochoa.
“Education is vital as a preparation for the challenges that players will face after their career, but also during it. The players are required to excel and achieve results, they are the main assets of this industry, but if they have no training they are at great risk of falling prey to the commercial interests surrounding the sport, or of their brand image or even their financial position being taken advantage of. History is full of cases of former players who fall from grace through bad investments,” says the former Australian player Craig Foster, currently a well-known commentator on SBS.
The division of responsibilities varies according to the stage in which the player is, but it’s a circle that starts and ends with him. “Talent is identifed very early and the decision to want to play football should be taken by the child, but it is important that his environment makes him look at the situation with perspective,” reflects Lucas Porcar. He knows from experience that “in the footballing profession there is enough time to combine studies and football”.
Wanting to know what happens around him during his time as a professional player also depends on the player himself, as does what to do with his life when he retires. “The clubs and federations should commit to preparing players for tomorrow – that would be ideal, but it doesn’t happen. It’s in our hands to train ourselves to be able to continue in the football world taking on new professional challenges”, says Fernando Revilla.
And if there is something they all agree on it is the ability they have to make the transition from the pitch to the office with many guarantees of success. For Israel Villaseñor, “a player who wants to get into management can bring a contemporary vision fueled by his experience, a vision made capable by his own experiences in the world of football, by the stimuli that helped him grow during his career, by his constant adaptation and search for solutions to succeed in such a constantly renovating world of active professional footballers. We are inspired by the belief that everything can be improved, we know the effect that covering so many needs that many underestimate would have, and that small details continue to make a big difference”.