Topvoetballer worden? Sluit maar aan bij de rest!

Dus jij droomt er van om een profvoetballer te worden en net als veel grote spelers in het betaalde voetbal te eindigen. Sluit dan maar aan bij de lange rij. Je bent namelijk lang niet de enige! (Let op: artikel in het Engels!)

Football is the world’s favourite sport. If you were born in Europe, Africa, or Asia, you were probably introduced to the sport at a young age: kicking about with your dad or siblings, playing matches in the school playground with your friends, that momentous day when you were given your first football jersey, or your first pair of boots. But perhaps the most memorable moment of your early involvement with the sport is sitting around a TV screen with your family members, each of them captivated by the onscreen activity, each of them on the edge of their seats in a state of undivided anticipation.

This is what sparks the dream.The dream to become a professional footballer and play on the world’s largest stage, the Champions League

I strongly believe in the pursuit of dreams. Life is short, after all, and we have to make the most of the time we have. However I also believe in acceptance of reality, no matter how uncomfortable it might cause you to feel. This is what I’d like to address: too many young players dream of playing professional football without accepting the difficult realities that stand in their way; if you can’t accept these realities, you can never hope to overcome them and realise your dream.

Football is an immensely competitive job market, with breath-taking rewards.

But, it’s also a tough, cut-throat industry, and the numerous players fail to meet the expectations of their club are dropped without hesitation. Few successfully make a living out of the sport according to ‘Every Boys dream’ by Chris Green only 1% of academy trainees will eventually make a living from football.

Many of you will believe you can make it, and yes, you should believe in yourself. But, if you are serious about your dreams, it is important to accept the difficulties you are going to have to face in making it pro.

And what do I mean by ‘the dream?’ It goes something like this. Player plays football in the latest football gear. Player gives an outstanding performance, single-handedly terrorising the opposing team. Player is spotted by a top scout. Player is flown in to a pro team. Player plays for the pro team, and wins the Champions League with a spectacular goal, then the World Cup, then the FA Cup, then La Liga, the the Ballon d’Or, all in their first season.

Well that’s a bit of an exaggeration however many players imagine that, if they can get into a top academy or team, they will be well on their way to a successful pro career. They focus too much on the end result of their fantasies – a successful career, adoring fans, a supermodel girlfriend, and a nice car – without considering the realistic process required in obtaining those things.

It is difficult to remember this, but, in the end, football is a business. Businesses are driven by profit. Footballers are commodities. If the commodity performs in a way that makes the business money – by winning games, getting promoted, lifting trophies and so on – they will be highly popular and prized. In other words, the club wants results, which they can only get if players are top performers.

So, for those players asking themselves, how do I get a professional contract? Or, how do I get scouted? You are asking the wrong questions. What they need to be asking is, how can I be a top performer? The answer is very simple: train smart, train hard, and play first team football consistently. Clubs don’t just want talented individuals but talented individuals who perform well consistently.

Erhun Oztumer moved from non-league side Dulwich Hamlet to League 1 team Peterborough United last season, after scoring 33 goals in 49 games in all competitions. The key point here is to prove your value.

This leads me to another point: if you’re on a team that trains just twice a week, and you wish to go pro, you need a reality check. Professionals train five days a week, without fail. They have a regime which focuses on many different aspects of their game, from decision making, to strength, from agility, to muscle rehabilitation and mental focus, to name a few. Your desire to become pro, means you have to eventually take a professionals contract but how can you do that when they are better conditioned, stronger, faster and more technically able than you are? Key point here is to Train hard, train smart, and train consistently.

Professionals are judged on their contribution to the team, their stats, their number of assists, the number of times they lose possession. Team contribution is classified, calculated and quantified. What contribution are you making to your team? Do you consistently make a difference to your team’s performance?

Finally, pros are pros, because they have proven themselves to be better than their competition. They are the very best in their field, and make unique contributions to their club, contributions that the club cannot get from anybody else. So, how are you better than your competition? What is unique or distinctive about you as a player? Beckham was said to arrive early to training, and stay late, just to work on his free kicks. Even if you are young player who has made it into a top team or academy, more can always be done to ensure you stay ahead of competition.

This article is not designed to crush your dreams, but to prepare you for the difficulties you must overcome to see that dream materialise in reality. The question I pose to you now is not, do you want to be a pro? But, can you perform like a pro?

If the answer is still yes, you might just find yourself graduating from in front of the TV screen, to being on it.

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