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Juventus and Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini is supporting the 'Mind the Gap' campaign to inspire footballers to prepare for a second career and guard against financial woes and mental health problems in later life.

Only 13% of active footballers in Europe have higher education qualifications -- compared to 53% of men in the European Union, according to FIFPro research.

Chiellini says it's important for footballers to start preparing for life after football during the prime of their career.

“As a footballer, at 20 years old you feel indestructible and able to do anything in football,’’ Chiellini said. “But at 35 your career is more or less finished. You then have the rest of your life in front of you, and just being able to play football is not enough.

 “Only a few players manage to find a job in football. There’s also the risk of depression, and there are many former players with financial problems because they have not thought about what they are going to do, they have not opened their minds by studying.

“Each footballer has different tastes and they can choose which road they want to go down after football, but the important thing is to do something. As a footballer, you need to start thinking about life after football at the beginning of your career, not at the end.”

Chiellini, 34, earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and then a master’s in business administration at Turin University during 14 years at Juventus in which he has racked up almost 500 appearances for the club.

chiellini juventus 650                                                                                                                                                                                                            Photos: VI Images

Chiellini said studying had not interfered with his football career and has even helped him improve his performance on the pitch.

“Studying helped me relieve some of the pressure in the world of football, and kept my brain sharp,” Chiellini said. “If you are not sharp in matches you can’t make the quick decisions that you need to reach the top level in football.”

The 'Mind the Gap' campaign is led by FIFPro and co-funded by the European Union's Erasmus+ Program.

Player development managers (PDMs) will be appointed at several player associations to help footballers prepare for a second career. The PDMs will receive intensive training and become part of a network exchanging ideas and best practice.

“Giorgio Chiellini is an excellent role model for young footballers, on and off the pitch," FIFPro secretary general Theo van Seggelen said. "The statistics show footballers are not as prepared as other workers to enter the employment market. We want to encourage players and their associations to work together to correct this."