THE PRECONCEIVED LIFE of a professional footballer is one of glitz, glamour, and a high rolling lifestyle. Although this is true, there is more than meets the eye when you take a closer look at this much sought after way of life. As well as the expensive cars and designer clothes comes the long nights away from home. Shaun Stephens took a closer look.
Young Irish footballers who cross the sea in pursuit of their dreams leave much more than just their families behind them. They leave the chance to enjoy their teenage years with their friends, they leave the comfort zone of a normal life in Ireland in chance that with hard work they can secure their dream profession.
As Soon as a young Irish player gets the chance to move abroad to play football, they take the chance with both hands, and why wouldn't they ? After all this is a chance of a lifetime. The profession of playing football is a rare one but if you can manage to crack the big time the possibilities of a comfortable life are endless. Of course all of the above is easier said than done and in truth the hard work only starts after you take the decision to move away.
Once you are away the responsibility rests on your young shoulders to go and make something of yourself. Many young Irish players make the trip across the sea in their early teenage years. These are very important years in your life in terms of development to adulthood which is hard enough, then add the responsibility of moving away on your own on top of that, and you can see why it is harder than it seems to live this life. Tommy Caffrey is a young Irish man who took the decision to move away and chase his dream. Having played for St Francis he soon caught the attention of Celtic who signed him at the age of 16. Tommy moved away in Summer 2016 and started to adjust to his new life. Tommy admitted that it was tough at the start to adjust to his new surroundings, “ At the start I hated it, I missed home, my friends, and family it's a lonely place sometimes”.
After a tough start to life Tommy then admitted to his delight that he quickly settled in and got to enjoy living the life he had always dreamed off. “ It took me about 3-4 months to settle in but ever since then I've enjoyed it , all I ever wanted to do was play football and here I am getting to do it everyday”.
It is the clubs responsibility to help facility these youngsters that they bring over to their clubs and it was good to hear Tommy tell me that they are indeed holding to these responsibilities. “I believe these clubs have everything to help you in your career and even other things like dealing with the difficulties of moving away”. This is a very important for a players development both on and off the pitch. A lot of the time if a young player does not make it, it is not because of his ability on the pitch but his struggles off it.
Moving away is the first hurdle that must be jumped but it is not the only one. The next is adapting to life and resisting the urge to pack it all in and go back home to the comforts that have been so important in your life up until this point. Tommy admitted that some players can not get over this aspect of the life and have moved back home. “I know a lot of players my age that have moved away and some players adapt well to it others don't, personally I've only seen one lad move home”.
Put yourself in these boys shoes, you have played football for the majority of your life dreaming of the chance to make a career out of it. Once presented with the opportunity of course they are going to snatch it with both hands and not think of the ramifications that come with it. Tommy sums this up perfectly, “it's a easy decision to move away at the time but once your over here it's different getting used to it”.
The generalisation from fans and public alike is that once a young Irish footballer makes the switch to a British club, they have their life set out for them. I understand it is hard to have sympathy for people who could go on to make five figures a week but you have to take into consideration that this life is not for everyone. The ones who take the decision to move abroad and chase a dream that only they can see, deserve respect.