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When former Liverpool star Vladimir Smicer signed his first professional contract at age 18, he would have agreed to almost anything to pursue his dream as a player, he says.

The 44-year old is determined that today’s inexperienced young players are not exploited.

Smicer’s career began and ended at Slavia Prague, and included a six-year stint at Liverpool in which he scored in in a thrilling comeback win against AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final. He also played in France for Lens and Bordeaux.

His parents reviewed his first contract for him. Fortunately, he did not experience any problems with late wages, unfair treatment or unscrupulous agents.

“The more I see, the more it makes me see how lucky I was,” Smicer said on a visit to FIFPro’s office near Amsterdam.

Smicer is encouraging footballers in his home country to join the Czech players association (CAFH) for legal advice because FIFPro research shows 33% are not paid on time and some face pressure to end their contracts.

Sparta Prague recently excluded three players from first-team training in a move which midfielder Jonathan Biabianyi’s lawyer described as “mobbing.”

Smicer said the practice has been typical in Czech football for decades.

Smicer is one of the founding members of CAFH, which was started in 2011. The association is trying to change an historic dynamic whereby clubs and the federation hold the power and footballers are worried about standing up for their rights.

“We don’t want to change everything – we still love football, it’s a beautiful game – we just want a fair game,” Smicer said.

CAFH is also campaigning for clubs to pay the social security costs of players because 93% are on self-employed contracts.  Most earn less than 2,000 euros per month.

The national federation has stonewalled the Czech players association on the issue and even started up its own players association in an effort to make life more difficult for CAFH.

Sometimes, CAFH staff have to meet with players in a restaurant because clubs forbid them from entering the team changing room, according to Smicer.

 “The harder they make it, the more it motivates me,” Smicer said. "I know one day we will win this battle."

Below: Vladimir Smicer (left) speaks with FIFPro general secretary Theo van Seggelen while visiting the world players association in the Netherlands.

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