Former Croatian international Ivan Rakitić is already preparing for life after the pitch as a recent graduate of the UEFA Certificate in Football Management – Players' edition (UEFA CFM).
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Ivan Rakitić opted to hang up his international boots in 2020 with over 100 Croatia caps to his name and appearances in three UEFA EUROs and two FIFA World Cups, including the 2018 final.
Watching his former team-mates in action at the ongoing 2022 World Cup has stirred emotions for the 34-year-old, who has been keeping fit with his club side Sevilla ahead of the resumption of domestic action.
"It's a crazy feeling, it feels really bad to watch the games from home," he explains. "And then even the next morning to go to the training camp and do the training session with your club, it feels a bit strange. But I feel really happy and proud for the players from the national team.
"It's very hard to open Instagram pages with pictures there because, of course, I'm following all the guys. So, I see all the pictures and details, and it's very hard to not be part of it."
Preparing for the future
Since taking the decision to step away from international football, Rakitić has not been short of things to do, however. The midfielder was among the 33 2021/22 graduates from the players' edition of the UEFA Certificate in Football Management, which meets the needs of current professionals, coaches and referees in readying them for a second career away from the pitch.
The UEFA CFM – Players' edition features ten online modules to enhance participants' understanding of the football industry and, as Rakitić discovered, provides a rewarding challenge.
"It was a really amazing experience and it helped a lot," he says. "It's very important. It's also very hard because it's a long-term commitment for us. It's not something you can do in two weeks; it's around nine or ten months.
"You also have to understand that during your holidays in the summer or pre-season, you have to work, you have to be on it. So, you have to understand that it's not something just to say, 'I will try to be a part of it,' because you have to work hard for it."
What do students learn on the UEFA CFM – Players' edition course?
• Organisation of world football
• Strategic and performance management
• Operational management
• Football marketing
• Communication, the media and public relations
• Event and volunteer management
• Football and social responsibility
• Women's football
• Football law
• Football development
Dedication and discipline
Of course, it is one thing to keep yourself disciplined on the pitch, maintaining match fitness and keeping to a strict diet, but footballers have not always been regarded as fantastic students in the classroom. Rakitić, however, believes the spirit that turned them professional serves them well for later accomplishments.
"I hope that I'm a good student!" he laughs. "During the season, it's much easier because we travel a lot, we spend a lot of time in hotels, so it's quite easy to take some time to read or prepare some work. But during pre-season, it's much harder and this was not so easy."
Studying alongside fellow players also helps create a team spirit. Rakitić studied with talents including former Croatia team-mate Eduardo da Silva, Branislav Ivanović, Pajtim Kasami, Taras Stepanenko and Switzerland's UEFA Women's EURO 2022 goalkeeper, Gaëlle Thalmann.
"We're like a big family," he says, "because I think we also have many assignments that we have to do together. Of course, you also have some that you have to do alone, but I think you can feel that the teamwork is very important during the entire course. We didn't see it like a competition, we saw it more like a big family and to try to do it together in the best way possible."
Despite his preparations for the future, Rakitić remains fully focused on Sevilla for the time being. That has not stopped him using his profile as an ambassador for the UEFA Foundation for Children, notably meeting children in his adopted city during EURO 2020. It is a role the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League winner is immensely proud of.
"This is amazing – maybe the best part of a football career is to be part of an organisation like the UEFA Foundation," he explains.
"I feel really proud to be part of this charity, to try to put a smile on all these kids' faces and to give them all this love, give them everything we can with football. Hopefully, when the moment comes to dedicate more time and be even more involved, I would love it because it's really amazing and it's something I'd really like to do."
What does the UEFA Academy offer for non-players?
The UEFA Academy provides opportunities for professionals working in the football industry to raise their game off the pitch through dedicated educational and management training. Its wide range of courses help executives and specialists, including doctors and lawyers as well as professional players, develop their skills to gain a footing in the administrative side of the sport.