Football legends sign up for UEFA master’s programme

Kaká, Didier Drogba and Andrey Arshavin are among the stellar names who have already enrolled for UEFA’s Executive Master for International Players (MIP) programme. The course will equip former international players with the professional skills needed to transition into a second career.

©UEFA.com
The UEFA MIP programme aims to equip former players with the skills needed to transition into a second career
The UEFA MIP programme aims to equip former players with the skills needed to transition into a second career©UEFA.com

They have played for some of the world’s biggest clubs and won just about all there is to win in football. However, for the likes of Júlio César, René Adler, Florent Malouda and 27 other former internationals, it is a new UEFA educational course that will help determine their success in a future career away from the pitch. 

All have enrolled for UEFA’s Executive Master for International Players (MIP). The aim of this 20-month programme is to equip top international players with the tools required to transfer their playing strengths into effective management skills that will also benefit football.

Ex-Chelsea forward Didier Drogba retired from football almost a year ago. After speaking to friends – and UEFA MIP graduate – Geremi Njitap, he believes the programme would be the perfect move for him.

“As a player I could feel the impact that we have on fans and people around the game, but then I stopped playing in November [2018],” the former Ivory Coast captain said. 

“I had been thinking, ‘How can I keep having the same impact without playing, without using my physique, my legs and my heart?’ The best way was to use my brain and think about how to stay in football and go into administration. That is why I am here – to get all the tools and skills needed to improve not only as a person but as an ambitious man who wants to contribute to the development of football.”

The MIP course comprises seven week-long sessions staged in major global cities. To help provide a comprehensive overview, each session examines a different aspect of the administration and governance of a football organisation. In addition, players not already working within a sports body must complete a three-month work placement to ensure they have hands-on, day-to-day experience.

Andrey Arshavin is one of two Russians on the course along with Aleksey Smertin
Andrey Arshavin is one of two Russians on the course along with Aleksey Smertin©UEFA.com

Andrey Arshavin, who now works as a TV pundit in his native Russia, says the UEFA programme offers him the perfect opportunity to expand his skills and build a future in football administration. 

“Every footballer knows their career will end, and there are fears that you are suddenly in a different type of life. There are normally two different paths – to coach or to go into the admin side of football,” said Arshavin, who as a winger helped Russia to the UEFA EURO 2008 semi-finals.

“For me, it is more interesting to be in administration. In order to improve myself and my knowledge, this is a good programme, especially when there are such exceptional players around you. I will try to get as much as I can from this course.”

The UEFA MIP programme will see the participants learn about a number of footballing topics
The UEFA MIP programme will see the participants learn about a number of footballing topics©UEFA.com

The modules are designed to give ex-pros a broad range of skills recognised as essential to succeeding in a second career. For example, students will study the role and the skill-set needed in order to take up a managerial position; strategic marketing and communication; and, stadium and on-site operational management. Participants also get an insight into North America’s model of league and club operations. 

The opportunity to learn about marketing and football administration was a driving factor behind Kaká’s decision to join UEFA MIP’s third edition. He also received rave reviews about the course from his friend and MIP graduate Raí. The Brazil international is now working as sporting director at São Paulo .

“I love football. I love to play, I love to study football, I love to watch football, and I think this is the best way for me to understand a lot of other things [connected to] football,” said the former AC Milan star.

Florent Malouda is one of the 30 participants on the third edition of the MIP programme
Florent Malouda is one of the 30 participants on the third edition of the MIP programme©UEFA.com

“I want to learn more about financial [matters], I want to learn more about marketing, administration and other things related to the sport that I know a lot about, in order to come back to the game.” 

Not all players have such a clear idea of what they want to do after hanging up their boots. Ex-England striker Emile Heskey, who has signed up for the MIP qualification, is still exploring his next career steps. The 41-year-old says he “understands everything on the pitch”, but wants a better insight into what goes on behind the scenes each day..

“When you come out of football, it can be tough at times, because you have concentrated so much on your actual playing ability and you haven’t really focused on what to do afterwards,” he explained.

“Having met MIP alumni, it looked like it was something that could help me with my second career – and to actually think about my second career, because I haven’t really delved into anything [enough] to say, ‘I want to do this’. This could help [me] find what could be the future.”

UEFA MIP graduates from the courses’ first two editions have already made great strides in their second careers, with 80% taking up new positions or earning promotions after earning their Masters. In addition to Raí’s sporting directorship at São Paulo, Simon Rolfes and Bianca Rech were appointed to similar roles at Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern München's women's football team, respectively. Eric Abidal is also working as sporting director at Barcelona.

The first session of the third edition of the UEFA MIP, which is run by the UEFA Academy, in close collaboration with the CDES at the University of Limoges and Birkbeck College at the University of London, will take place in Nyon in early November 2019, with the programme running until summer 2021.

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