Over the next few weeks, I will be writing on this website about my experiences as a footballer, covering issues including mental health, second-career planning, the women’s game and, of course, the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
I grew up playing in the Manchester City Football Academy. I missed two days of school each week to train. I was sure I would play in the Premier League one day for the club I supported as a boy. That hasn't happened but my professional football career has been exciting, taking me to different parts of the world.
I have played for clubs in England, the United States and Scandinavia. Today, I play for Örebro Syrianska in the Swedish third division.
I’m lucky to call teammates, coaches, and club staff from all backgrounds good friends, who constantly open my eyes to what football means to them.
One of the most striking things I have learned during my career is just how wrong stereotypes are about the lifestyles of most professional footballers. According to FIFPRO’s 2016 study, 45% of professional football players earn less than $1,000 per month.
Every football player is different. But most professionals lead simple lives built around football schedules, and face uncertainties about their jobs at the end of every season.
I don’t own my supercar or idyllic island – at least, not yet. Like any professional with ambition, I can’t help looking upwards, plotting my route to the highest achievable league and contract.
But I don’t overlook where I am right now: living out my dreams in a beautiful country, alongside great teammates, getting paid to play the game I love. Football players can also count our riches in life experiences given to us by the game. As one former coach of mine repeated every morning before training: “This is the best job in the world.”
It is. I will try and show you what a professional football player’s lifestyle really looks like and discuss some ways to make our workplace even better. I hope you will follow along.