Chasing Football

A South African’s Perspective on Breaking Into the Football Industry in the EU

It is 9:30 AM on a Wednesday morning, and yet again I am sitting at my computer perusing job adverts for an opening in football. It has been over a year since I started looking for a job in football, and four months of sporadic employment since I started my General Management Programme in Sports Business. I started the course, mind you, to help me break into the industry. A lot has changed in that time. My husband and I have both lost our jobs once each, we’ve moved into a new home, I have learned a lot, made a lot of new contacts, and attended my first Sports Business Conference. Some things, however, remain the same. I am still explaining myself at every meeting, I still have the look of hopeful desperation that I hope says, “Hire me,” and I still am reminded of how much, or in my case, how little, experience I have in the industry. I have contacted every person I was advised to, I followed up on every potential lead, I have had meetings, and had phone calls and even one or two interviews. I have also researched the perfect cover letter, opening lines, read up on every team and every business ahead of every meeting or letter, and yet I am still waiting for my "big break."

Unfortunately, on paper I don’t look like much. I have had international volunteering experience at some of the most prestigious footballing events in the world, but no full-time employment. It doesn’t seem to matter that I have spent years, and tens of thousands of my own money, to pursue my passion for football. It doesn’t seem to matter that I moved thousands of miles away from my home and my family to pursue my dream career in football. For every football club or company that asks you to bring your passion and drive, when it comes right down to it, they’re also looking for credentials. I barely even get to the interviewing stage in my applications. I never get to tell them that I can read and assimilate new information at a rapid speed. I never get to tell them that I am so good at learning and applying new knowledge that I’ve been known to be able to teach others after just three months. I never get to say that I constantly improve myself by taking new courses and gaining new skills, like when I taught myself how to build a website for one of my employers. I never get to tell them that I have a natural aptitude for analytics, research, organisation, and figuring out new solutions to a problem. All they see is that I have ten years working experience, none that is very senior and none in football. I rarely get asked why I am in this industry at all. The truth is that football gave me hope. The FIFA 2010 World Cup came to my home country and it was like the world suddenly opened up to me. I saw how my country changed for the better; people were more unified and positive for the outlook of our country. The international visitors had nothing but good things to say about how we delivered the World Cup and our hospitality. There was cheering in the streets day and night, and it seemed that just talking about the game was enough to make a new connection or friend. There was so much hopeful anticipation going around that the air practically buzzed with it. It was up until that point, one of the most exciting times of my life, and it changed my career trajectory completely. Football gave me hope. And that’s when I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in the beautiful game.

So here we are, almost eight years later, and I am living in England with my husband. I am studying a programme that I’m not sure I can afford, in a house that I’m not sure I can afford, for a dream I’m not sure I can afford to still have. I should stop. I should take the nice safe jobs I’ve been ignoring and turning down in the pursuit of my dream. I should, I really should, but I won’t. And there’s a simple reason why. No matter how many times football rejects me, no matter how many times I get questioned on my commitment or knowledge or experience, football has made me grow in ways that no other career path has. I’ve had to overcome my natural reticence in approaching people to talk to CEOs, Founders, or Co-Founders of companies and Presidents and Vice Presidents, etc. I’ve had to stop relying on my natural intelligence to get myself out of trouble and buckle down in the nitty gritty of daily toil. By ignoring those jobs, I’ve made it a do-or-die situation, yes, but it also pushes me harder than anything else has in my entire life. It has also taught me a lot about myself that I didn’t yet know. I now know that I can keep up with CEOs, Founders, or Co-Founders or just about anyone in any walk of life. I haven’t just spoken to people related to football, but motorsports, hockey, baseball and a whole host of other sport and non-sport related industries. I have found that I have a natural talent for public speaking, which I am also pursuing in conjunction to football. I realised that I have a lot of new and innovative ideas to contribute to football, and whilst I am still looking for someone to invest in me, I will continue to invest in myself. I know that I will eventually break into the industry, not because I am passionate, or driven, or capable (although I am all those things), but because I will not stop until I do. For me, every day is victory, job or no job. Football is my best lesson and my most critical supporter, and I will never stop chasing football. 

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Chasing Football