Many young athletes grow up playing soccer and dream of one day making it professional. They put in endless hours of work training and at practices, hoping of one day being called up to the big leagues. For a select few, they manage to make it, and are able to make a living by playing professional soccer for a period of time. It’s a dream come true, right?
Well, kind of. You see, while players might be used to a high salary and a certain luxurious standard of living during their playing years, the reality is that the majority of professional sports careers – soccer included – are fairly limited. It’s simply an age factor – once a player reaches their mid-30s, it’s basically only a matter of time before they retire and are replaced by a younger talent. After all, you don’t see many professional athletes in their 50s running around on the soccer pitch with the rising 20-some year old superstars.
However, unless you’re someone like David Beckham or have obsessively squirreled away your earnings and saved over the course of your career, most soccer stars don’t quite have contracts in the hundreds of millions that would allow them to retire and simply live a life of leisure. A large portion of retired professional soccer players go on to have a second career in retirement – some, perhaps, because they want to fill their time, but the majority because they don’t have enough from their pro sports career to support themselves and their families for another 20, 30, or 40 years. Sure, many capitalize on their athletic experience and skill and end up involved in the sports world in some way, as a coach or commentator. However, many retired soccer players end up making a complete change and pursuing a career totally unrelated to sports, something any regular joe off the street might do.
Here are 15 soccer players who retired and ended up finding regular jobs.
15 Lee Bowyer (Fishing Lake Owner)
Lee Bowyer is a somewhat recent retiree who played his last game in 2012. He played the majority of his career in England, as a midfielder for clubs including Leeds, Newcastle, and West Ham. However, England isn’t his home base lately – he’s making his living in France. You see, during his professional sports career, Bowyer always liked to unwind with a day on the water, fishing and relaxing. So, in retirement, he turned that beloved hobby into a career, and now runs a carp fishing lake in France. It’s a world away from the energetic, high-paced world of professional sports, but perhaps that’s exactly why Bowyer loves it.
14 John Chiedozie (Bouncy Castle Business Owner)
John Chiedozie had a long career as a winger, playing for teams including Notts County, Tottenham Hotspur, and Chesterfield, as well as representing his home country of Nigeria countless times on the international level. After spending years entertaining international audiences on the pitch, what’s a retired player to do? Spend their time entertaining children, of course! Chiedozie has remained in England, Hampshire in particular, and is spending his retirement running a children’s soft play equipment business. That’s right – all the coolest birthday parties and children’s events in Hampshire? Former football star John Chiedozie is probably the one behind them.
13 Arjan de Zeeuw (Private Investigator)
Dutch soccer star Arjan de Zeeuw spent over 15 years playing professionally for teams such as Barnsley, Wigan, Coventry City and Portsmouth. He had a strong career and was always the consummate professional – I mean, who could forget the moment during a match when opponent El Hadji Diouf spat right in his face and he simply retaliated by turning the other cheek (and eventually scoring the winning goal that game). De Zeeuw is keeping up that level of professionalism and integrity in his retirement – he left England and returned to the Netherlands, his native country, and now works as a private investigator for the police force. I mean, a football star turned private investigator? There should definitely be a TV show about that already.
12 Gaizka Mendieta (DJ)
Many soccer players spend a lot of their time unwinding in clubs, sipping top shelf liquor in the VIP section and enjoying the attention they receive from all their fans. However, former Valencia, Barcelona, and Middlesbrough midfielder Gaizka Mendieta spent his time in the club a whole different way. Apparently, Mendieta had a passion for the turntables and would even sneak into clubs in disguise after games and spin a little for the crowds. Now that he’s no longer required to report to training, he doesn’t need to sneak in his DJ sets between matches – he can simply show up to the club prepared and ready. While you may think that a soccer player and DJ are totally different worlds, Mendieta would disagree: “when you are on the pitch you have a split-second to decide a pass, it is the same as a DJ picking the next song,” he said to the Daily Mail, “It is the same feeling of tension as playing football and I do get nervous before I DJ.”
11 Gavin Peacock (Pastor)
There are a fair amount of wholesome, family men in the world of professional soccer, but let’s be honest – the ones who get the most press attention are always the players who are constantly cheating, surrounded by gorgeous women, spending every spare moment in the club and getting caught by the paparazzi when they’re up to no good. However, Gavin Peacock occupies the exact opposite side of the spectrum from those debaucherous players now that he’s retired. He played for several teams during his career, most notably the EPL’s Newcastle and Chelsea. While he worked for a short time in retirement as a pundit, putting his sports expertise to good use, he wasn’t quite satisfied. In 2008, he left England altogether and crossed the ocean to Canada, where he began to study theology with the goal of becoming a minister. Peacock now makes his home in Canmore, Alberta, and is a missions pastor and elder at Cavalry Grace church in Calgary.
10 Philippe Albert (Fruit and Vegetable Stand Owner)
Belgium-born Philippe Albert had a long career, playing for over 15 years with teams such as Newcastle, Fulham and Anderlecht. Nowadays, while he occasionally appears on Belgian TV as a pundit, his retirement time is primarily spend on a pursuit that has nothing to do with sports. Albert works at a friend’s fruit and vegetable business, bringing produce to the masses. Does he miss the glitz and glam of the professional sports world? Not according to the man himself. Albert has said that “I’m not interested [in football] anymore and have other things to do. I’ve got a normal life.”
9 David May (Wine Importer)
English soccer star David May spent years with the Blackburn Rovers and iconic Manchester United, amongst other teams. While fine wine may not be the drink you first associate with soccer stars, it turns out that May has quite the palate for vino and used some of his football earnings to invest in his wine importing business. He works primarily with South African wines, and imports everything from Sauvignon Blancs to Chardonnays to Cabernet Sauvignons. While he works hard, May has acknowledged that he was one of the lucky ones, confessing that some of the former stars he played with are spending their retirement working in factories.
8 Barry Horne (Chemistry Teacher)
Any former professional athlete who ends up going into teaching will likely be the gym teacher, right? After all, they spend years and years learning how to train their bodies and bring their own performance to its optimal level. Well, while former soccer star Barry Horne is, in fact, director of football (soccer) at a school in Chester, he also spends his days amongst beakers and formulas, showing his students how to do stoichiometry as a science teacher. Turns out that Horne actually has a first-class degree in chemistry from the University of Liverpool and is now employed at The King’s School in Chester as a chemistry and physics teacher.
7 Carlton Palmer (Director of Sport at a College)
Many retired soccer players stay involved in their favorite sport as pundits. After all, who better to comment on a game than someone who has spent a decade or more of their life on the pitch, getting a first hand view? They know what it’s like better than anyone. However, while former midfielder Carlton Palmer has been involved in the media in his retirement, as of 2014, he’s gone in a more academic direction. Palmer has moved all the way out to Shanghai and now works as the Director of Sport at the Wellington College based there. Who better to organize a prestigious school’s sports program than someone who actually made it to the big leagues, after all?
6 Marco Gabbiadini (Guest House Owner)
Gabbiadini spent nearly 20 years playing professional football, on teams including Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Stoke City, Darlington and more. Though born in Nottingham, Gabbiadini started his professional sports career as a young player in York and when it came time to retire, he ended up returning to tourism-friendly York for another venture – running a hotel. Gabbiadini and his wife took over The Bishops Hotel and have been running the establishment ever since. As the retired soccer star told FourFourTwo.com, “It’s hard work…and it’s certainly not glamorous. I seem to spend a lot of time doing renovations and improvements, and there’s often times when we’ll both be working 18-hour days but it’s very rewarding and the wife loves it.”
5 Kevin Kyle (Storeman)
You might expect former soccer players to go on to high level positions in whatever field they decide to pursue in retirement – managers, bosses, CEOS, etc. However, Kevin Kyle isn’t above putting in the hard work and starting at the bottom. The Scottish soccer player spent nearly 15 years playing professionally and, at the peak of his career, was bringing home 40,000 British pounds a month. Nowadays, he’s bringing in a fraction of that – about 1,600 pounds a month – working 12 hour shifts as a storeman on a ship. While some former professional athletes may have a big ego and feel ashamed to be caught by reporters working for a far lower wage than they were accustomed to, Kyle simply states that he’s “trying to provide for [his] family.” Deadbeat pro athlete dads around the world, take note!
4 Stuart Ripley (Solicitor, Law Lecturer)
Ripley spent his career in England playing winger for teams like the Blackburn Rovers and Middlesbrough, but he now makes his home in Lancashire doing something entirely different. While he obviously excelled in sports, Ripley also enjoyed the world of academia – however, any dreams of pursuing an education were cut short when he joined Middlesbrough as a teenager. In his 30s, after retiring, he enrolled in university and began studying everything under the sun before taking a special interest in law. After his degree, he ended up working at a firm in Manchester in the sports law department. Currently, Ripley is combining his legal knowledge with his sports background, building up a portfolio of lectures aimed at helping young players navigate the often confusing world of pro sports, including dealing with agents and social media.
3 David Hillier (Firefighter)
When he retired, former Arsenal midfielder David Hillier knew that he had to find a second career at some point – while he had saved up enough to last his family awhile, he knew eventually they would need an income not related to football. Fate intervened and Hillier and his wife heard a radio announcement that firefighters were being recruited in Bristol. Ever-determined, even though he failed the interview the first three times he took it, he finally got onto the team on his fourth try. Hillier claims that there are definitely some similarities between professional soccer and firefighting, stating that “firefighting is a team job. You eat together, you drink together, you’re always in the gym together.”
2 Jeff Whitley (Used Car Salesman)
Midfielder Jeff Whitley had an astounding pro soccer career, playing for years in Manchester City, Sunderland, Cardiff City, Wrexham and more. He retired fairly young, partly due to the hard partying that the professional athlete lifestyle often encourages and wasn’t quite sure what to do next. Whitley had a friend who owned a used car business and simply asked the former midfielder whether he’d like to work for them, despite him having no prior sales training. Whitley ended up taking him up on the offer and, though the learning curve may have been steep, he pushed through and ended up doing quite well. While Whitley is still very young and open to pursuing other career paths, he proves that hard work can mean a rewarding life after football, even for players who may have been on a downward spiral.
1 Simon Garner (Painter/Decorator)
Former striker Simon Garner spent nearly his entire career with the Blackburn Rovers, playing with the team for about 14 years. Understandably, he decided not to make his home in Blackburn after retiring – though he played primarily in the 80s, he was enough of an icon on that team that he would likely be constantly recognized in Blackburn. Instead, he opted to live a quiet life in Berkshire, where he works as a painter and decorator. It wasn’t an easy path for Garner and he tried on several potential careers before settling on one – selling mortgages, being a postman, etc. However, when a friend offered him a job painting and decorating, he found a good fit, and enjoys being able to pick and choose jobs and be his own boss.