Becoming a professional football player may be a dream come true, but it’s a relatively short career. Players often face problems at the end of their careers after years of hard work and success. When it’s time to hang up their boots, they may feel a sense of loss and regret that can be detrimental to their mental health. When the disciplined fitness routine ends and international travel comes to an end, retiring from the game they love can be traumatic for some and embraced by others.
Former Arsenal and Brazilian World Cup-winning midfielder Gilberto Silva told Football Now the uncertainty of retirement can often be one of the biggest challenges for a former pro.
“It can be tough when you retire. You get used to the routine of being a football player and then you have to quit. No one tells you what to do or where to go after you finish football. When I started my company (Sports World Coaching), I started giving advice. I’m saying, but try to stay in the game (soccer) if possible because they have excellent knowledge in this field, and it can help them in a future career.”
Retirement doesn’t always mean the end. Some clubs support former players by guiding them through a bumpy transition period, assigning roles and employing them within the club.
It is a natural way for many football players staying in the game to become coaches. Zinedine Zidane, Xabi Alonso, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are just a few of the players who have made the transition to a role on the touchline after their illustrious careers. Former players can also often be seen on a TV studio panel offering matchday analysis. Marcel Desailly, Thierry Henry and Jamie Carragher are just a few of the names that have made successful careers in the media.
Some players choose to quit the game altogether and also make some interesting alternative choices after football.
Former Wigan Athletic defender Arjen De Zeuw is a police detective in his hometown of the Netherlands. Former Germany goalkeeper Tim Weise left football in 2014 and started his professional wrestling career with WWE. Formerly a defender for Wolverhampton Wanderers, Jody Craddock is now channeling his artistic talents as a full-time oil painter. Respected Frenchman and Manchester United legend Eric Cantona has transitioned seamlessly from the field to the big screen and has appeared in more than 30 films. Midfielder Lee Bowyer has played for Leeds, Birmingham and Newcastle throughout his long football career. After retiring, he replaced one type of fishing gear with another and now owns a lake where he fishes carp. Royston Drenthe, a former Real Madrid midfielder, left football at the age of 32 to start his rap career under the pseudonym Roya2Faces.
It can be challenging for players who don’t have the skills to embark on an alternative career path. Former Liverpool FC striker Neil Mellor says many former players are facing this issue.
“I remember a piece of advice I gave when I was at Liverpool. My coach Steve Heighway said to me, ‘We’re getting you ready for the day you leave this football club. The idea is, ‘Listen, enjoy every day you have this football club in your career because for young players there is now a life after football. Face the truth. They don’t want to work on the next thing, whether it’s a course, a degree, or some kind of advanced education, coaching, or whatever. They might put it off until they panic a little and get older. Out of 30, saying, “Wow, I really need to do something.” you are thinking.
Football is a lucrative industry and for many players it is their primary concern on the field. Football players rarely discuss the end of their careers because it scares them. Brazilian football player Falcão previously said that the athletes died twice. Saying goodbye to their favorite sport is never easy, but in most cases, the previous shock has passed, former players realize there is a life after football and continue to embark on new journeys and chapters.