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Italian football great Roberto Bettega needs no introduction, but he feels the need to explain part of himself. Speaking English, he says, is not his strong point as it is thirty years since he left Toronto on the final stop of an illustrious career. His English, incidentally, is perfectly understood, as is the message he carries with him on a brief visit to FIFPro House.

In his address to the FIFPro Division Europe Board Members, Bettega highlights the difficulties of transitioning from a life dominated by football and the camaraderie of the dressing room to what awaits on the other side once the final whistle has sounded.

"We need to take care of these players, especially those not as lucky as some of us," he said in his opening remarks.

Bettega certainly qualifies as one of the lucky few. At club level, he enjoyed outstanding success with Juventus: seven league titles, two Italian Cups and one UEFA Cup. He made a total 490 appearances for the club based in Turin, the city of his birth, scoring 179 goals, which places Bettega third on the Bianconeri's all-time list behind Alessandro Del Piero (289) and Giampiero Boniperti (182).

A star for club and country, he represented Italy 42 times, scoring 19 goals, and was part of the Azzurri squad which reached the semi-finals of both the 1978 World Cup and the 1980 European Championships. He would have been a key member of Italy's 1982 World Cup campaign, which ended in glory, but missed out due to a knee injury.

Apart from one season during his formative years on loan to Varese and a couple of summers in Canada with Toronto Blizzard in the now defunct North American Soccer League, Bettega, a Juventus youth product, was essentially a one club man. He is black and white.


Roberto Bettega and FIFPro Board Member Leonardo Grosso

Bettega only recently celebrated his 63rd birthday, "Back when I retired, at 35, I had ten years before I could collect a pension at 45. Today, in Italy, if a player stops playing at 35, he has to wait thirty years for retirement benefits."

Bettega describes a reality that extends to all professional players: how to prepare and what to do over the course of at least three decades post football?

Bettega has always remained close to the game, at one point serving Juventus on its board of directors. A move upstairs from player to executive is not a well-worn path. It is, again, an example of Bettega's privileged existence, something he admits over and over during his meeting with FIFPro, speaking on behalf of EFPA, the association of former European football players.

As Bettega points out, most players do not have the opportunity to reap the rewards, financial or otherwise, of a career at the top of their craft. Players often struggle. Despite the misconception of a game awash with cash, the gap between rich and poor has never been greater.

A career change is never easy. It takes education and time. Some stay in the game as coaches, scouts or media pundits, but most will be forced to move on and leave the football industry.

FIFPro encourages players worldwide to take the initiative and be prepared for the when that moment arrives. The world footballers union (and its players' associations) tries to stimulate as many current players as possible to study for suitable academic/vocational qualifications to develop their career prospects, both within and outside of the game.

In 2011, FIFPro started its own Online Academy to ensure that young footballers in particular have opportunities to access training and education in vocational areas to help them gain employment at the end of their sporting careers. At the end of this year, the first students will graduate as a bachelor in Sports Management.

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