Ex-internationals including Kaká, Kolo Touré and Lise Klaveness have completed the UEFA Executive Master for International Players, which helps former players prepare for a second career off the pitch.
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A star-studded group of ex-professionals is celebrating this week after graduating from the third edition of the UEFA Executive Master for International Players (MIP) programme.
26 former pros received their diplomas from UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin at the house of European football in Switzerland on Wednesday, coming together to toast their success at the end of the course alongside alumni from its first two editions.
Over the past three years, the graduates have all acquired knowledge and experience that prepares them for a second career after playing, bridging the gap between the technical skills gained on the pitch and the administrative expertise required to occupy senior positions within football organisations.
UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin addressed the graduates:
"Today is a special day in many regards. Only you know how much was sacrificed throughout these three years, how difficult it was to put the right balance between your education, private and professional life. Your dedication and work ethic, which defined your successes on the pitch, were tested. And, once again, you came out as winners.
"You are joining a prestigious group of former football players who decided to take this exciting pathway. The skills you gained during your career and the knowledge you gained during the UEFA MIP will benefit you and the game we all love.
"You will not leave today only with the diploma but also with another powerful asset - your friendship. Your classmates were not here only to support you throughout the course; they will be the basis of your future business network. So, cherish these relationships.
"This mix of academic and professional expertise ensures that you have the right toolkit to succeed in the second half of your career as you did in the first. UEFA values your experience and expertise, and we want you to play the game of your lives in a new role. So please, set an example for others to follow and always protect the core values of our beautiful game."
From the top of the league to top of the class
Stars like Brazilians Kaká and Júlio César, France's Florent Malouda and Germany's Clemens Fritz and Rene Adler are all well accustomed to lifting trophies and performing in front of thousands of fans on the pitch but going to university to prepare for life after playing was a more daunting prospect than you might imagine!
"I didn’t go to university, I started to play early when I was 17," César explained. "On the induction day, I was so scared, believe me!"
Kim Källström, a veteran of 131 Sweden appearances, added: "You go into that room with all these former players, some are huge stars. It's like jumping into the deep end of the pool, you have never been there, [but] we are all going to have this as a great memory and a great foundation for our future careers."
Having set out on their journey in late 2019, the group's progress was halted due to the COIVD-19 pandemic, but they have been able to complete their studies a year later than scheduled. During the course, students enjoyed a series of week-long gatherings which helped to instil a confidence and understanding of the wider football industry and create a familiar camaraderie.
"Nobody can have the experience that we have on the field. When you put all the tools that we have after the programme, with this experience here, you create this unique person," said Kaká.
So what comes next?
Some graduates are already working in the industry, such as Lise Klaveness, who is now president of the Norwegian Football Federation (NFF), and Källström, who used his thesis on national training centres as part of his role as a consultant with the Swedish Football Association (SvFF). Others, such as former Senegal international Khalilou Fadiga, are assessing their next steps. "I want to be part of the future leaders of world football," he said.
The ambition is clear. And now, they are well prepared for their second career within the game.
The class of '22: who are this year's MIP graduates?
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What is the UEFA Master for International Players (MIP)?
The MIP equips top international players with the tools required to transfer their playing strengths into effective management skills that will also benefit the game.
Graduates from its first two editions include former stars such as Éric Abidal, Youri Djorkaeff, Luis Garcia, Gilberto Silva and Nuno Gomes.
The 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.
Modules are designed to give ex-pros a broad range of skills recognised as essential to succeeding in a second career.
The MIP is organised in close collaboration with the CDES at the University of Limoges and Birkbeck College at the University of London.
More about the UEFA Academy
You don’t have to be an ex-international star to learn with the UEFA Academy.
As well as several courses tailored for players considering their next steps, the Academy also provides opportunities for people working in the football industry to raise their game through dedicated educational and management training.
Its wide range of courses help executives and specialists develop their skills to gain a footing in the administrative side of the sport.