Football is one amongst if not the most popular sport in the world. when this discipline of sport is made mention of, images of certain individuals occupy our minds. Football icons such as the legendary Pele,Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff , Ronaldinho or Zinedine Zidane amused and put the world to a standstill as professional soccer players. What animates public debates nowadays worldwide is perhaps the never ending debate of lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo in their never ending battle for supremacy. As Zoe foster puts it “As with any moderately famous person, footballers are the source of much gossips ……” These individuals have not only made their countries known around the world, their professional clubs famous but each and every individual would want to identify with either Messi or Ronaldo. Have u ever wondered why these football stars have excelled more than others players?.
The football industry has employed thousands upon thousands around the world just because of the individuals that animates the sport. Football matches such as world cup finals and UEFA Champions League finals or the famous El Classico are amongst the most watched events in the world. This discipline of sport has equally propelled some individuals to unprecedented fame. Not only that, football has been a vector of peace in the world. A good example is the role Didier Drogba played during the civil strife in Ivory Coast when he qualified his national colours to the 2006 world cup hosted by Germany. It is quite true that what propel George Weah to become the president of Liberia is the fame he gathered as a footballer .The world almost came to a halt when Paris Saint-Germain bought the Brazilian football wonder boy, Neymar Jr for a whooping sum of 222 million Euros.
The questions any critical minds would definitely ask is, how did the above mentioned individuals become footballers , what does it take to become a football player? what did the above individuals do to become professional footballers or better still what are the skills required to play football. It is obvious that the above-mentioned footballers started from somewhere before their names now virtually run on the lips of almost every individual in the world.
They are not extraordinary individuals as some of us may think, there are like you and I . The following paragraphs give a clue on what you can do to become a professional footballer.
1) Have passion for the sport: It is often said that you cannot excel in what you don’t have passion for. This therefore suggests that you most first of all love football for itself before thinking of becoming a professional soccer player. Most young men and women get overwhelmed when they hear the mouth-watering salaries players like Christiano or Alexis Sanchez get as their weekly pay in their respective clubs. I bet you, if you are moved by the salary of these professional soccer players you may end up pursuing money rather than football itself.
Dream about being a footballer first not being a millionaire. Players like Messi, Ranaldo or Neymar are where they are because they love football, not just the benefits that come with being footballers. Passion will help you surmount all the challenges that you may face as a footballer. Passion goes with commitment, and patience. when you have passion for something it means you make sacrifices to get it irrespective of the distractions.
AR Rahman is quoted as saying, “success comes to those that dedicate everything to their passion in life. To be successful, it is also important to be humble and never let fame and money get to your head.
You must appreciate humble beginnings, because being or becoming a professional footballer does not necessarily imply that you must play for a top team. Most of the top football players around the world started with little known clubs before they were recognized by bigger ones. Didier Drogba for Example started his career with Le Mans in France . It is because of his humble beginning that bigger clubs like Guingamp marsille and eventually Chelsea came for him. Christiano Ronaldo started his professional career with Sporting Lisbon before he was caught in the spying glass of Manchester United and eventually Real Madrid
2) Have and icon: Having a footballer you admire is one of the things football players need. You develop a better sense of direction when you want to become like a person you admire. This statement is very applicable to anyone who intends becoming a professional footballer. Nearly Everybody who enjoys any degree of success and admiration had a particular person whom he/she loved and desired to become like the person. Dele Alli confirms that when he was young he used to try to be like Steven Gerald, now he is excelling in his club as well as his country England. Striving to be like your hero would spur you work more harder.
3) Associate with other professional footballers: The type of people you associate with have great influence to your life. By associating with other footballers, you will learn from their experiences as professionals. You get to learn from their past lives, past experiences and their challenges, and perhaps how you could surmount such challenges.
In associating with other footballers, its always advisable to have a mentor amongst them, one you can run to when you find yourself in a particularly challenging situation. Also it makes you know your strength and weaknesses and how you could perfect such weaknesses. Associating with other professionals also keeps you getting better and blends your skills. It is equally worthwhile to watch other footballers play, you will learn a lot from them. So the skills required to play football are not only within you, you need somebody who can inspire you to excel in the sport.
4) Don’t succumb to distraction: It is often said that You may not reach your destination if you stop to throw stone at any dog that barks. In the long journey of becoming a professional footballer, there would be a lot of distraction coming from your colleagues, family, friends, media or even football fans. There is often a lot of criticism, sometimes coming from the media that may make you deride yourself. Lukaku for example came under harsh criticism in Manchester United when he went for 6 successive games without a goal. It was as if the world was against Lukaka, but he stayed calm and focus.
Another distraction which black players especially had to overcome is racist attacks from fans. Players such as Samuel Etoo Fils, Mario Balotelli and Dani Alves are victims of racist attacks often characterized by monkey chants. It is very true that racist attacks have really affected some of the players that have been a victim but they have remained strong. If Etoo Fils succumbed to the racist attacks he came across in Barcelona he would not have excelled there. Will you quite the pitch if fans of your own club or your country or better still fans of the opposing team starts booing at you?
Great players like Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have been booed by their fans or the fans of the opposing team. But how can you deal with this as a professional soccer player?. Christiano Ronaldo for example was booed by Juventus fans during a UEFA champions league match, but the very fans gave him a standing ovation when he scored a superb overhead kick, auguably amongst the best goals of all time. He maintained a cool head and concentrated on his game, that is why at the end of it all he became the hero. So it is very dangerous to yield to distractions on and off the pitch as a professional soccer player. So as you look forward to becoming professional footballer you must see each and every challenge as an opportunity.
The distractions do not end at the level of the pitch, as an aspiring professional footballer, distraction will equally come from your friends or family members. You will often receive calls from friends to go hangout at night in a club or any of these fun places. Such places like clubs will only help destroy your career. Alcohol and football are not friends at all, or they don’t simply go hand in hand with each other. It is very important to limit the intake of alcohol,if you really want to become a professional footballer.
Your family is very important to you, but you have to limit the time you devote to them for they may never get enough from you. Fans of the Ivorian national team were very mad at Yaya Toure when he turned down a call up to defend his national colours in a friendly match supposedly because he had family matters to settle. Ivorian fans did not take this excuse funny. This is very unsafe to the career of a professional soccer player or anybody wishing to become a professional footballer.
The fans, or the 12th player as they are wittily called, are a motivating factor in the game of football. You can do things that may baffle you just because of the motivation from the fans. But these very fans can be a source of distraction, especially to a person looking forward to becoming a professional footballer. Sometimes you will be booed by the fans, you will equally receive discouraging written notes from them . But you don’t have to succumb to these distraction. So keeping a cool head no matter the distractions you may come across is one of the things football players need to pursue their professional careers.
5) Have confidence in yourself and stay mortivated : self confidence is paramount to any person who aspires to excel in a particular field. There are some people who will look down at you probably because of your size or height. To become a footballer you must consider yourself the best. When you consider yourself as such you will work toward becoming the best. Remember Casey Stoney once said “Don’t ever doubt yourself because there are enough people in the world that are going to doubt you”.
Lionel Messi for example may have probably been looked down on by other footballers, because of his heights, but he did not look down on himself. He had that self-confidence and it has made him arguably one of the best of all time. Believe that you can bench any player in your team. Take challenges, go for those penalties that even the person who is considered as the best player in your team is running away from. Tackle with mathematical precision. Be ready to change your favourite position in the field for another which you may be a novice in. It is your self confidence that will make you excel in that new position. Mosses who plays professional football at Chelsea is an attack-minded player, but he was changed from his favorite position to a left back by his boss, Antonio Conte. He excelled in this new position undoubtedly because he had mustered self-confidence. He might not have been the best when he was immediately changed from his position in the field. He perfected his skills and became a maestro in this position. Take calculated risk without necessarily worrying about making mistakes, signal for the ball even if you are under pressure from opposition.
Staying motivated is one of the things football players need. Self-motivation is very important. Sometimes things just go wrong for you in the field of play. Sometimes as a professional soccer player, for every goal scored or every mistake made in the field, accusing fingers are directed toward you. The ever waiting media is ready to tear you down, thousand of fans are ready to boo at any mistake you may make while on the turf. But you have to always tell yourself “I can always do it no matter what”. Your coach has to play a major role in motivating you, but you have to motivate yourself first.
6) Train regularly: Hard work beat talents if talent does not work hard. Training on regular bases is one of things football players need in pursuance of their career. Doing one thing over and over will give you extra skills .The key to knowing something better is doing that thing regularly. What makes Christiano Ronaldo or Messi different from other footballers around the world is the extra efforts they are putting to perfect their skills required to play football.
Even in the academic milieu the smartest student is that one who does not depend on the notes given to him by his/her teacher. He always goes the extra mile to upgrade his knowledge. It is very true that there are born footballers, but such people are rare to come across. Talent is very central but is not the crucial point. The crucial point here is the amount of effort you are putting as an individual. That is why some footballers can play for two hours or more without getting tired .
C. Ronaldo for example is said to have a strict regular training timetable that encompasses a lot of cardio and gym exercise which help him improve on his complete physical fitness. He equally supplements this regular exercises by working superfluously hard on the pitch. He works on his personal skills and ball control by doing technical drills over and over again. On an average Christiano Ronaldo trains 3-4 hours each day, with a highly selective diet. Regular training as an aspiring professional footballer makes you stay fit. It is equally very prudent to train with your team mates so as to enhance understanding between you and your team mates.
To stay at the top, you must be consistent and being consistent means training habitually. Remember your team mates, especially those who play the same wing with you will always substitute you if you are not consistent. As Ronaldo puts it “no pain no gain”. Have you ever wondered why for the past 10 years or so L. Messi and C. Ronaldo are at the summit of football? Or why the Ballon D’or for the past ten years and counting has gone to only these two?.
You must put that extra effort to get to the top. It will suffice as a professional footballer to ask questions such as why am I not talked about like the other player or why am I not outstanding like my fellow team mates. By pondering over these questions, you will have that urge of becoming famous tool. You need to constantly strive to improve yourself. Consider every training session as a springboard to get to the top. Football, just like any other game is meritocracy.
To wrap up this point, it is very important to train on a regular basis because what will make you different as a footballer is the personal efforts you put in.
7) As a footballer you must be patient: Patience is one of the virtues or things professional footballers need. As it is often said you cannot run more than your shadow. There are some players who had stayed in a particular club for 3-5 years without regular play time. But one may be tempted to ask; what are they doing there if they don’t have regular play time with the club in question?
The answer to this question is patience. You may not get something at your first try. Messi for Example did not have regular play time in Barcelona when the likes of Ronaldinho and Deco were still playing for Barcelona. Perhaps if wishes were horses he would have loved to have regular play time at that time for Barcelona, but he did not. He did not quite the club. He remained patient and now he is on almost every single match. This illustration simply demonstrates that if you want to become a footballer you must be tremendously patient. You need not be a club prostitute in the name of searching for a club where you will have a steady play time. That may not aid you to become a footballer. So you may have the skills required to play football but those skills are thwarted by your impatience
7) Be discipline:You may train day in day out, or possess all the skills required to play football, but if you are not disciplined, your career will amount to nothing. Professional soccer players try as much as possible to discipline themselves irrespective of the challenges they have to face. Discipline is the supreme thing footballers need in their careers. Careers of many footballers have ended prematurely because of indiscipline.
Discipline for a professional footballer has to be practiced on and off the pitch. How do you associate with your team mates?, Do you treat your team mates with respect? How do you behave toward the fans? Do you respect coach?. These are salient questions you have to ask yourself if you really want to become a professional footballer.
Great football players like louis Suarez almost had their career ruined because of indiscipline. In his early days of football he was surrounded by numerous controversies. Suarez during one of the world cup qualifier matches bit his opponent. This issue of biting became phenomenal about him. He attracted an eight match ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra, Manchester united defender then. Imagine what that means to you as an footballer who is in search of individual trophies, imagine what that means to the entire team, especially if they are depending on you, imagine how your fans will feel.
Professional players like Mario Bolotelli, Carlos Tevez, and John Terry have also been at the centre of controversy. To become a footballer is different from becoming a professional footballer. What helps you become a footballer with a difference is how disciplined you are.
Try as much as possible to obey your coach. The coach holds the yam and the knife and can do anything anytime if you displease him. Some players have lost regular play time because of fallouts with their coaches. If you don’t have regular play time at a particular team, it will be more difficult for you to become a professional footballer.
Also try as much as possible to respect the decisions of the referee irrespective of whether those decisions are right or wrong. Avoid attracting unnecessary sanction. Learn to make your tackles wisely especially if you are playing as a defender. Maintain a level head whenever you are provoked by your own fans or fans of the opposing teams. Some players like Patrice Evra had paid the price of getting mad at fans. In a noteshell being discipline is among the things football players need in order enjoy a great career
8) Try to be the possible best in your preffered wing on the pitch: when ever some play positions are made mention of, one thinks about a particular player. For example when one thinks of midfield, images of people like Xavier, Andre Inester ,Pirlo or Lukas Modric come to our mind. When one thinks of a striker, it possibly Could be, Samuel Etoo, lewandoski ,Louiz Suarez, or Harry Kane. These players come to mind because they are the best when it concerns the above mentioned positions. Remember players are there to replace you if you do not perform well.
All in all, to become a football player you must embody a number of virtues as cited above. If you have the above virtues, God will handle the rest in your professional life as a footballer. Remember nothing is impossible.