The case of Edwin van der Sar inspires a Finnish footballer

Niklas Tarvajärvi has gained in confidence at the head of his school for young talents thanks to the Master in Sport Management: “Everything I learn I can use every day”

Niklas Tarvajärvi is a man used to changes, but until recently they all had been in football. “Learning to express myself with my mouth instead of my feet has been a challenge for me,” he says. This year, Niklas, now retired, is studying the Master in Sport Management at Johan Cruyff Institute Amsterdam. The case of fellow footballer Edwin van der Sar caught his attention and, convinced that he needed more confidence to manage his school for young talents, he decided to study. [/thevelop_dropcap]

Niklas Tarvajärvi is originally from Finland, but currently lives in the Netherlands, where he came to strengthen SC Heerenveen as a midfielder. Unfortunately, he failed to excel, partly due to the high level of competition he had with the other players, and from there he went on to play in different clubs in Holland and abroad.

Many athletes can tell a similar story, about an active life full of hopes but also with hard moments. “At the end of my career, I suffered two serious injuries and I spent long periods in rehab centers. That provoked mental problems,” Tarvajärvi explains. “Then came the moment when I realized that I wasn’t going to reach the level that I wanted to reach. When I decided to quit, it actually felt like a relief, because I didn’t have to dedicate all my time and energy to playing football anymore. Now I could finally look for other opportunities!”

The case of Edwin van der Sar inspires a former Finnish footballer to dedicate himself to sport management - Johan Cruyff Institute

Niklas, training with the children at TarvaPro, his school for young talents

That transition can be easy or hard as well. So, how to proceed? “When I quit my career, I was a bit lost at first. Later on, I decided to run a school for young talents, because I wanted to share my experience and knowledge to guide kids who dream of football. I love working with them. They are learning things fast and are very motivated, so they give me lots of energy in return.”

“I also decided to study. I wanted to see, feel and learn more about the other side of sport organizations, the side I didn’t see when I was a player,” he says. “The biggest challenge for me is to represent myself with my mouth now, instead of with my legs. I found Johan Cruyff Institute on the internet and saw that Edwin van der Sar also studied the Master in Sport Management. Everything that I am learning gives me the possibility to use it for my company TarvaPro, like creating proper plans, setting reasonable goals, discovering innovations and learning how to manage all that. The Master is a really nice practical tool for me!”


Johan Cruyff Institute uses a rich learning environment that fosters educational tools based on a student interaction model. We aim for a mix of students from sports and business sectors, which also enables students to share their unique experiences and learn from each other. The students will engage actively in creative challenges that require effort, commitment and intuitive thinking. Visit our web pages to find out more about our programs, for example:

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