Mutual Uruguaya de Futbolistas Profesionales (MUFP) is one of three player associations nominated for the 2023 FIFPRO Union Impact Award. The award recognises the best initiative of a union that is improving the wellbeing of professional footballers in their country.
During the FIFPRO general assembly on 21-24 November in South Africa, all member unions will vote to decide which of the three finalists will win the 2023 Union Impact Award.
Uruguayan union MUFP felt players were having serious challenges with education and adjusting to life after football. Some players had not completed their high school education, which posed an obstacle when it came to securing a career after football.
As well as that, the union also felt some players were struggling with their mental health. Players have to deal with the intense pressure of being a professional athlete and in some cases, this has had tragic consequences. Three active Uruguayan footballers died from suicide within six months of each other in 2021, which is why the union felt the need to take a preventive approach to this problem.
To support players with their education and mental health, MUFP created the Más Mutual program which consists of four goals:
- To enable footballers in Uruguay to become primary healthcare advocates
- To help players progress in their formal and non-formal education
- To strengthen the support network and allow this initiative to continue growing
- To expand the target group, gradually starting to work with players in academies
As part of the Más Mutual program, the MUFP helps players earn a secondary education certificate. It also offers bespoke consultation, organises workshops about suicide prevention, financial education, and compulsive gambling and other addictions.
Explaining the union benefits, Más Mutual Project Coordinator Nicolas Bava said: “As we’re gradually raising the educational level of our members, this places our organisation in a situation of less vulnerability before other parties that have historically tried to subject footballers to their interests.
“At the same time, it places the footballer in a different role in the eyes of public opinion. They become more than just footballers – they become promoters of health and education in a country where their image is very important. In the long-term, this can perhaps lead to better employment conditions and remuneration in other areas beyond the purely footballing sphere.”
In the last two years, the mental health department of the MUFP has helped more than 180 footballers on a one-to-one basis, and more than 400 in the form of workshops. The education department supports about 500 players in different courses or trainings.
Bava said: “We are starting work with some retired footballers. We have trained 20 tutors to support the baccalaureate process this year, and we are aiming to make it a paid activity next year. We are aiming to train about 50 by 2024.”