Born in Bafoussam, a small town in West Cameroon where he says “there wasn’t a lot of hope for success,” Geremi climbed to the top of the world’s game: winning two Champions League titles with Real Madrid and Olympic gold for his country.
“In retrospect I have to say that I’ve been very lucky,” said the former right back and midfielder, who also won two African Cup of Nations trophies, La Liga, and a Premier League title in a glittering playing career.
“Today I can see where I came from and what I’ve achieved. However, it wasn’t only luck – it also took a lot of courage, hard work, determination, discipline and sacrifice.”
Now he is retired, Geremi’s feelings will be familiar to most footballers who stop playing the game they love.
“What I miss most is competition,” he says. “I miss effort. My body used to make a lot of effort. Now I miss it.”
Geremi’s physical output might have dipped since racing across the Santiago Bernabeu grass, but his energetic approach to his new career makes him a role model for football players figuring out what’s next.
“You have to prepare for retirement”
In the book, “The Secret Balance of CHAMPIONS: Health Challenges in Elite Sport,” and the video below, the Cameroonian shares his advice on life after football.
“You have to prepare for retirement. Whatever you decide to go and do, you have to go and learn. This is very important. Go and get some tools.”
”Let’s say you want to be a manager, there are programs you have to go and learn. Then you can do it.”
“My legacy now is my new job: being a representative of the players and a manager. My goal for the future is to become one of the top managers in football. I think there’s the potential for that.”
Geremi continues to get the tools he needs to succeed in new leadership roles and is driven by a passion to help young African players realise their ambitions.
“In particular, where I come from in Africa we need good managers and good leaders in football, especially those who have the experience I have. This is something I look forward to and I’m giving everything to make it happen. Each day I gain more experience and feel I’m on a good path.”
“I’m also a board member of FIFPRO, which has helped me learn a lot. I bring my contributions to the table and try to do the best I can to help younger kids in Africa achieve their dreams.”
Geremi’s second career might even outshine his legacy as a footballer one day. He can be viewed as a role model to fellow professionals figuring out what’s next.
So what lessons can you take from Geremi’s story?
“Go and learn, get the tools, and believe,” he says. ”Believe in your qualities. And be patient in what you are doing. Be patient.”
But as the inspirational Geremi Njitap Fotso is keen to point out, do not underestimate how far along you already are in your own journey.
“If you are a former player, be happy with yourself. Realise you have achieved a lot of things and those things will come to help you in your new career.”