• He is also writing a thesis as he is studying at the FIFPRO Online Academy
• He says combining all three activities is hard work, but also brings invaluable experiences.
Dani Hatakka balances his full-time career as a professional footballer with both his studies through the FIFPRO Online Academy and his role as chairman of the board of Finnish Players Association JPY.
After three years on the board the FC Honka defender was promoted to the position of Chair in May, a duty that he will fulfil while writing his Bachelor’s thesis and attempting to qualify for the first ever UEFA Europa Conference League.
While the 27-year-old admits that he has a full plate, he maintains that an organised work schedule helps him to comfortably balance all aspects of his life and explore his interests off the pitch without impacting his performance.
“In football you approach each and every match by trying to be the best version of yourself, giving 100 per cent at training and being prepared for whatever might come your way. I try to implement this ethos in my responsibilities outside of football as well – whether this is researching all that there is to know for an upcoming board meeting or knowing a subject inside out before sitting down in front of an exam paper.
I had made a few attempts at an education outside of football, and took up some courses at the Open University – which were great, but in my life as a footballer I moved around to various cities, and it was difficult to pick up my studies from club to club, so I didn’t really progress academically.
About three years ago the JPY introduced me to the FIFPRO Online Academy, which suited my needs perfectly as I could work towards my degree whenever and wherever I wanted. I’m now in my third year of Sports Management with the University of Northern Denmark.
Around the time that I began with the FIFPRO Online Academy, I was asked to join the JPY board. I had been a member of the union itself since I started playing professionally at the age of 17. Since then, I’ve been expanding my knowledge off the pitch and have been really keen to learn and help in any way that I can, so I was thrilled when I was offered the position of Chairman – as it really reflects the growth and dedication that have shaped my role within the union.
While I am thoroughly enjoying my development off the pitch, I am still very much aware that my day-to-day job is that of a footballer. This is how I earn my living and it’s my number one priority, so I have to have a very clear schedule in order to balance my extracurricular activities in a way that doesn’t detract from my performance. This involves arranging meetings on my rest days and when I have a university deadline, I sometimes must complete the assignment a few weeks in advance to ensure that it is out of the way before a big game.
In this way I don’t really have experience of what a “normal job” would look like without the dominant presence of football, but through my studies and my work with the union I’ve been afforded a glimpse of what could be instore - and I think this will be invaluable to me in later life, no matter what I decide to do. I’ve expanded my skillset, my connections – both locally and internationally – and even unearthed new interests that could be helpful in later life.
For example, the JPY board meets about once a month to consider the matters currently at hand within the union, and we often invite stakeholders from outside Finland to share in our discussion and broaden our understanding of the industry as a whole. In June we welcomed Joachim Walltin, the General Secretary of FIFPRO Division Europe, and he shared a lot of insight into how each of the 64 national members play their own part in the global picture – and I found it really inspiring.
In my role as chairman, I can contribute to a real positive change for Finnish players, which in turn can have a knock-on effect for the 65,000 footballers that are represented by FIFPRO around the world. It’s not just the players who can make a difference on the pitch, but the people who work to support them throughout their careers – and I could be a part of that.
I have no intention of retiring soon, and I want to enjoy my journey in football for as far as it takes me – whatever that might look like. However, it’s good to know what else I am capable of, and where my other passions lie.
Right now, I’m enjoying learning what interests me outside of physically playing – and there’s a lot out there that I’m curious about, so I’m not going to limit myself to just one path.”