Legends back in classroom with eye on football's levers of power

24 Apr 2023 12:24pm
Fabio Cannavaro
Fabio Cannavaro

TOKYO - Fabio Cannavaro, John Terry and Tim Cahill are among the former football stars swapping the dressing room for the classroom on a course hoping to put more players in positions of power.

The FIFA Diploma in Club Management is in its second year and aims to teach "the latest practical know-how and insights" on how to run a football club.

Course participants must currently work for a club in an executive or managerial position, although exceptions are made for active players such as Spain's Juan Mata and Brazil's Fernandinho.

Cahill, who retired in 2019 after playing in five different countries and winning 108 caps for Australia, now serves as chief sports officer for Qatar's Aspire Academy and is also a board member at Belgian side Eupen.

He told AFP that he believes the course can help him become "an influential person that can be efficient and diligent enough to run top-quality football clubs".

"It's not always just about what happens on the pitch," the 43-year-old said in Tokyo during the latest session of the course.

"It's the dynamics of how to run a football club, and it's a big world." FIFA organisers whittled down a list of more than 400 applicants for the 40 places on the course, which runs from September 2022 to December this year.

Cahill and Terry both made the cut, although former England and Chelsea defender Terry could not travel to Tokyo because he was busy starting his new job as Leicester City's assistant coach.

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Participants must attend a minimum of two sessions at locations around the world, as well as taking part in others online.

They must complete a range of coursework and give a presentation for their final project before graduating in Zurich.

Tuition fees are $3,900, not including travel and accommodation costs.

Former Arsenal and Switzerland defender Philippe Senderos was one of 30 people who took part in the inaugural course, in his role at the time as sporting director at Swiss club Servette.

He was invited back to give a talk for this year's students and said the course "opens your mind to different ways of managing football clubs".

"It's not enough to just have experience as a football player -- you need to be able to structure your thoughts," said Senderos, whose classmates included Italian World Cup-winner Cannavaro.

Senderos told the students in Tokyo about the inner workings of Servette, explaining the academy system, club structure and his day-to-day tasks as sporting director.

He was followed by various figures from Japanese football, including the chairman of the J-League and an expert on teaching skills to young children.

Marketing, stadium management, finance, legal matters and youth strategy are all study modules.

Other speakers on this year's course include Arsene Wenger and Fabio Capello, as well as CEOs such as Manchester City's Ferran Soriano.

FIFA course director Ornella Desiree Bellia says the programme is anything but Europe-orientated, and aims to "create a global football environment where not just a few clubs from a specific region are able to compete at the highest level".

"We try to have more people from outside Europe because we believe that's where FIFA should put its focus on," she said.

The Club World Cup is expanding to 32 teams from 2025 and Bellia says FIFA do not want a tournament that is "completely unbalanced".

She also says the governing body wants to have more players in administrative positions in world football.

"It's important to FIFA to give back to the players what they give to the game," she said.

"This is why FIFA wants these players to get the knowledge and the network to then be able to run a club -- not to retire and maybe be forgotten, but to have the tools to be executives." - AFP