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Constantinos Charalambides is a man who likes to take the initiative. On the field, he is looking to create opportunities for his teammates. Off the field, well, he likes to provide his teammates and his colleagues with opportunities to make the best of their lives after the end of their active football career.

So he - Constantinos Charalambides, the 32-year old attacking midfielder and captain of both Cypriot champions APOEL Nicosia and the national team of Cyprus (77 appearances) - called FIFPro.

"I am a student at the FIFPro Online Academy. This is such a great initiative, all football players should know about this. I want to help you."

Charalambides has just completed his recovery from an ankle injury, which made him miss most of this season's Champions League encounters with Ajax, FC Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain. "It was the first serious injury in my career. It was difficult." Three weeks ago, Charalambides made his comeback as a substitute. Last Saturday, he illustrated that he is back on top of his game by producing three assists during APOEL's 4-0 win against Ethnikos Achnas. "I still want to play for two or three years."

When Charalambides began his career, in 1999, he was a (high school) student. Now, in 2015, he still is a student. "Education was always a priority for me. When I was younger, I was one of the best students in my class. I wanted to be as good as I could be in football and at school."

"In high school, when we had to take our university entrance exam, I had the highest score."

In 2002, having just finished his mandatory military service, Charalambides enrolled at the University of Cyprus in Nicosia (UCY) to study Business Administration, section Marketing. "I studied a lot and managed to pass all exams, even though it was extremely difficult for me to combine my studies with a football career."

"Unfortunately I could not continue and finish my studies."

What is unfortunately? After three years, halfway through the 2004/2005 season, Charalambides received an offer he could not refuse. "I had the great opportunity to go to Panathinaikos." He joined the then reigning Greek champions and signed a 4-year contract. "Because I left Cyprus, I was unable to continue my studies, as the regulations of the University require the daily attendance of the students."

CC training 640

That was in 2005. Now, ten years later, players such as Constantinos Charalambides can continue their study, even if they move to a club abroad. The FIFPro Online Academy gives sportsmen and -women – who are EU citizens - the chance to earn a BA-degree in 'Sport Management' alongside their active sports career.

Charalambides is one of more than a hundred current students at the FIFPro Online Academy. He signed up in 2011 when he had returned to APOEL - the club where he began his professional career before embarking on a journey that took him to Greece (Panathinaikos, PAOK) and Germany (Carl Zeiss Jena). Back at APOEL, he received a phone call from Spyros Neofytides, President of the Cypriot players association, PASP.

"Spyros informed me about the FIFPro Online Academy. He wanted me to be its first Cypriot student. I was immediately enthused by the idea. This was my opportunity to finish my studies. I called my former university to ask for my credits and used them for my application to the FIFPro Online Academy."

Charalambides is a professional footballer who competes on three levels: with APOEL in the Cypriot league and the UEFA Champions League, and with the national team. "Last season I played more than 50 matches", he estimates. He dedicated much of his time to travelling and training. "And I also have my wife and two kids."

Still, Charalambides committed himself to the FIFPro Online Academy. "I think I spend three to four hours on the training ground each day. If you do not have double training sessions, you have the entire afternoon off."

"The FIFPro Online Academy gives me the opportunity to spend my time as I wish."

Join the FIFPro Online Academy!

"I don't have to be in class at ten o' clock. I don't have a daily structure concerning studying. It all depends on my schedule. There are days when I want to study for 5 hours, and there are days when I do not have any time. Sometimes I take my classes when I am in a hotel, especially when we had training in the morning; in the afternoon I have the time to study for one or two hours."

"The FIFPro Online Academy gives me the opportunity to play with my time."

"If you need six years to finish the study, you are allowed to do that. No problem."

The University College of Northern Denmark (UCN) facilitates the Sport Management study of the FIFPro Online Academy. UCN uploads the lectures to the internet each Monday morning. All students can login and watch the lectures of the previous week.

"UCN is doing a great job", Charalambides says. "When you have questions or want advice, you can contact the assistant. It is really nice the way it works online."

For Charalambides, studying is also a getaway from the daily pressures of being a professional footballer. "A very good psychologist once told me, that you must not spend the entire day and week thinking about the 90 minutes of the match. When you leave the pitch, start thinking about something else. That works for me. For me it's refreshing to use my brain for something other than thinking about running, weights, matches."

"You know what I like most? I study what I love: sports. I like the theory behind sports and performance, nutrition, economics, marketing, communication. I have learned how events are organised. I have learned from marketing ideas of clubs such as Real Madrid or Barcelona and studied the economic aspects of running a football team. I would still like to see how the NBA (American basketball) and NFL (American football) are run in the USA, because they are very innovative."

"There are so many different angles that I as a player never hear about."

"This online academy gives me an education and the opportunity to learn how to think as an academic. I think this will be helpful for me during my next career, being a trainer or manager, or a person in sports in general."

This year, seven other players from Cyprus enrolled at the FIFPro Online Academy. "Some of them asked me for advice. I always say that it is difficult, because the study is hard and studying can also be challenging. But I add that this education program is also very, very beneficial. If you like to study, and if you do it with passion, then it won't be too difficult."

"In life, football is only one part. Life after football is another part. Studying at the FIFPro Online Academy helps you prepare for that part in life."