FIFPro, that's me
‘You will benefit from playing at FIFPro Tournament’
Thursday 14 July
Next weekend some 125 professional footballers will gather in Rijnsburg, The Netherlands, to show their skills at the FIFPro Tournament. They hope to impress managers and scouts in order to find a new contract. Three Portuguese players talk about their experiences from the 2009 FIFPro Tournament.
In the summer of 2009, the beautiful city of Cannes hosted the fifth edition of the FIFPro Tournament. In the Pierre de Coubertin stadium of AS Cannes, the place where legends like Zinedine Zidane, Patrick Vieira, and current French international Gaël Clichy started their professional career, six teams from six footballers’ associations participated in the event.
Paulo Santos, Hugo Morais and Miguel Garcia were all on the Portuguese team. Allthough their team had many talented and experienced players, Portugal lost to both Slovenia and France in the group matches, and was beaten by The Netherlands in the consolation round: Team SJPF ended last.
Last place or not, all three men managed to find a new club, and continue to play at the highest level. Paulo Santos is currently a goalkeeper at Rio Ave. The 38-year old had a long career with stops at Benfica, Estrela Amadora, Alverca, FC Porto and Sporting Braga, and was also part of the Portuguese 2006 World Cup squad before joining Team SJPF in 2009.
Hugo Morais too already had a fine career when he accepted to train with Team SJPF. The midfielder had played for Marítimo, Leixões and many other clubs. Since the 2009 FIFPro Tournament the 33-year old midfielder is playing for Académica de Coimbra.
Both Paulo Santos and Hugo Morais speak highly of the FIFPro Tournament and the training sessions organized by the Portuguese footballers association SJPF. ‘Such initiatives are always important’, says Paulo Santos. ‘They offer the unemployed players an opportunity to train, to maintain their good form and a chance to prove themselves.’
‘Football is a team sport’, the goalkeeper continues. ‘Of course, it is possible for a footballer to train on his own, but besides running he can do little else. With the help of the union this is no longer a problem. At the training there will be more players. We operate in a normal environment, just as when at a club. There is competition during the training sessions and there is the possibility of playing several friendly matches against teams from various divisions.’
‘The FIFPro Tournament is a great showcase for the players, because there are scouts and managers from various countries present at this event’, Hugo Morais explains. ‘This gives you an extra possibility to not only sign for a club from your own country, but also from other countries.’
Hugo Morais and Paulo Santos reject the suggestion that training or playing with the union, or playing at the FIFPro Tournament could be bad for your reputation. ‘There is nothing to be ashamed of while training with the SJPF or playing at the FIFPro Tournament. This is the best possibility to show your talents in front of scouts and managers, and to show them you are fit to play’, says Hugo Morais.
Paulo Santos, goalkeeper at Rio Ave
Paulo Santos: ‘I strongly recommend all unemployed players to enter these training camps and the FIFPro Tournament, because your career will benefit from it.’
One player who also benefitted from the Team SJPF training camp and the FIFPro Tournament is Miguel Garcia. In 2009 he was looking for a club after four seasons at Sporting Clube de Portugal and a short stint at Italian side Reggina. The defender joined the SJPF training stage, played the FIFPro Tournament in Cannes and then signed with promoted Olhanense.
Half a year later Miguel Garcia was transferred to Sporting Braga. With his new club he ended that season being runner-up in the Portugese top league behind champions Benfica. Last season was even better. Miguel Garcia was a mainstay in Braga’s defence, as the club reached new heights and qualified for the Europa League final. FC Porto proved to be too strong in that final. This season, Miguel Garcia will play in Turkey for promoted side Orduspor.
The remarkable story of the 28-year old defender was reason for the SJPF to name Miguel Garcia as ambassador for its training stage Estágio do Jogador. The player accepted his new role and ever since he has tried to persuade footballers who are looking for a new contract to join the Portuguese training stage.
Miguel Garcia remembers the situation he found himself in two years ago before calling the union to sign up for the training stage. ‘I was in a really bad situation. I had no club, I had no job, nothing. But the union supported me, especially José Carlos [the SJPF board director]. We started training with 8 players who had represented clubs at all levels, also clubs like Benfica, Braga. There were players like Bruno Bastos, Paulo Sergio, Thiago Lemos. More players followed.’
‘There was a good atmosphere and we had a real team spirit. We were united. We all did our utmost, because we all had the same goal. And it worked: because there were clubs making offers to our players.’
‘The training stage and the tournament give you the opportunity to meet clubs . Maybe there will be a club from the first division or the second division that will make you an offer. This is a great opportunity to prolong your career.’
This year the Portuguese footballers’ association SJPF will once again participate in the FIFPro Tournament. 17 players will try to follow the example of Paulo Santos, Hugo Morais and Miguel Garcia, and many, many others...
Miguel Garcia in the Europa League final
FIFPro, that's me
FIFPro, that's me is a column in which FIFPro puts 50,000 professional footballers under the world's close scrutiny. What are the positive aspects of the profession? How do they survive in a footballing world that's occasionally difficult? What tips would they give to a professional colleague? What does the professional future look like after a footballing career? The footballer speaks: his story is also the story of FIFPro.
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