Thursday 18 April 2013
Inspiring figures from the world of football gave advice and encouragement to people wanting to find employment in the game at Kick It Out’s third annual 'Raise Your Game' conference in London last week.
Former Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba, Professional Footballers' Association chairman Clarke Carlisle, ex-Tottenham Hotspur striker Garth Crooks and Arsenal and England Women's star Rachel Yankey were just some of the names in attendance at the mentoring and leadership event at the Trades Union Congress headquarters.
Around 200 participants attended the conference which covered subjects such as management and coaching, grassroots and community, physiotherapy, football administration and media and communications.
"I'm just so fortunate and thankful to still be here"
The conference was first held in 2011 and brings together people from across the country who are looking to find work in different areas of the football industry.
Troy Townsend, Kick It Out’s Mentoring and Leadership Project manager, told the conference: "Two years ago I was sitting on that very floor you are now wanting to make a career change in my life - I had been a teacher, a coach, a father, and had worked in my community for a long time.
"I decided to volunteer with Kick It Out, because I wanted to show people I was keen and willing to make a difference. Luckily enough the old project manager, Earl Barrett, managed to get a position at Stoke City and the door opened for me. Hopefully today will be the game-changer for you to advance in the industry just like it was for me. Two years ago it was about leading the way, now it's about raising your game."
One of the most inspiring stories at the conference was told by Muamba, who suffered a cardiac arrest during an FA Cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur on 17 March last year. The 25-year-old explained to the conference how he was adapting to life after football, having been forced to retire last summer.
"I'm in a very fortunate position being a professional footballer"
"It had to happen at one point [retirement]," he said. "It's like driving a car, coming to the end of the road and having to change direction - I'm just so fortunate and thankful to still be here."
Norwich City midfielder Bradley Johnson, Crystal Palace winger Yannick Bolasie and Bolton striker Marvin Sordell joined Muamba at the conference, with all four also taking part in a question and answer session.
"I think I'm in a very fortunate position being a professional footballer," said Sordell. "We are constantly in the spotlight whether it's good or bad news but I think we are very influential in society considering the situation we are in.
"If we can use it in a positive light it can be very powerful and events like this are great with a lot of players showing their support. And it's not just the players here today, there are tons of players who do a lot of work for charity and do a lot of mentoring in their communities."
The event is part of a wider 'Raise Your Game' campaign which runs nationwide and gives people across the country the opportunity to discuss potential pathways into football with leading representatives working at professional clubs, governing bodies and associations.