My footballer’s life was great. When I was a young prospect, I set myself two goals: I want to play in front of 10.000 fans every week and I want to earn enough money to buy an apartment.

Set Your Goals

I never really achieved my first goal. True, I played in front of huge crowds, for example in front of 42.000 people at Anfield (Liverpool FC Stadium) and similar crowds elsewhere at major stadiums, but that was not on a regular basis. I wanted to feel that rush every week. That would mean that I would play in one of the top five leagues, but unfortunately I never achieved that. Once you feel the adrenaline of huge crowds, you easily get addicted to it. So this was my biggest career disappointment. I did, however, achieve my second goal. I bought an apartment so now I have an easier life without having to worry about mortgages and things like that, which I am really grateful for.

Nothing happens without a bit of luck

When I look back there were many moments when my career could have gone sky-high, but there was always something missing. Often I blamed poor training conditions, bad luck or even people around me. That’s because I thought I did everything in my power to succeed. And I did – I worked really hard but it simply wasn’t meant to be. My goals were as big as they could be – I started out wanting to be the world’s best footballer, but with seasons passing by, the goals gradually became smaller and smaller. Nevertheless, in all these years I have never stopped dreaming.

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Football in the blood

Let’s go back to my beginnings. I was raised in a small town where we lived in an apartment block and there were people of all kinds of nationalities. It was a small ghetto, where football was always topic number one.  So when kids went out to play, they played – football. It was a way of life.

But the biggest influence for me was my father. He was a great football player, people begged him to sign for professional clubs, but he never decided to. He played on an amateur level and worked in a construction company as head of construction sites. I often followed him to matches where I saw some great skills and moves.  He was the one who inspired me to take up football. And I am very grateful to him for that.

I played football all day long with other kids from the neighbourhood. When I was eight I joined the local club and started to train more seriously.  My father was my first coach. He was very popular and kids loved him. We learned a lot from him. Every week my father and I worked individually on my technics, shooting, finishing, heading and things like that. Usually every Sunday – the day after my club match. Those hours were very precious for me and I loved that bonding with my dad. He was always very passionate about football.

Passion = Obsession

Talking about passion … There was nobody more passionate about the game than me. People knew me as “the boy with the ball”. The ball and I were inseparable, I even slept with the ball. There were days that I spent more than 10 hours alone with the ball practising new tricks and shots.

One day my school friend challenged me by saying I couldn’t juggle the ball with my feet for 100 hundred metres. But that was not a challenge for me. I had already kept the ball up 10.000 times, and I told him I would juggle the ball from my home to school without dropping the ball even once. And I did it. Only there was approx.  2000m from my home to my school and I did it on a sidewalk with cars driving by one metre or two away. The ball never dropped although I was just 12 years old.

I will tell you another funny story. One day my mother complained to my dad that her expensive night cream has been mysteriously vanishing on a daily basis, although  she wasn’t using it that much. First they asked my sister whether she was using it, but she said no. They never even suspected me. Until one night my mum found me lubricating my leather football boots and my new ball with this fancy cream. They were all laughing like crazy.

Football letters

When I was even younger, I have read an article about Pele in a regional football magazine. The article even included his address written at the end. And what did I do? I wrote a long letter to him (two pages!), asking him how I could improve my skills, how much he trained, when he was my age and similar types of questions. As you probably guessed, I never got an answer. But that didn’t depress me at all.

Around the same time I also wrote another letter. It was to a girl from my building, whom I had a big crush on. And one day she wanted to meet me outside to have a walk or something. But of course I didn’t have time for her because I had a match scheduled with my mates. So I dumped her with a short note, passing it to her through the balcony. It went something like this: “Dear Girl! I admit it – you are beautiful and you are a doll, but my first and only love is the ball!

Obviously I was very committed to football, so I was never late or missed training. And I kept my football stuff clean and tidy all the time. With that I also developed work discipline, which proved to be very helpful in other parts of my life as well.  I often feel sad and disappointed that this seems to be a value disappearing among today’s youth.

Never stop dreaming

It is great to have big dreams. It is wonderful to have big hopes, as this gives you motivation to work harder, to go that extra yard.  If nothing else, football gave me good working habits, discipline and last but not least kept me away from the streets, drugs and other bad influences.

With these habits I was also more successful in other aspects of my life. And all that thanks to one big dream. So … never stop dreaming!

Until next time.

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The Diary Of A Football Player
series of posts with everyday examples from a footballer’s real life. It’s a mosaic of sport life from someone with experience (the author has been a footballer for 15 years). Many times controversial in his career, but always with love for the game.