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Onoabhagbe: League gave me options after release

20 Sep 2021

Former player recalls how Crystal Palace and the Premier League helped him get into university

While every Academy footballer dreams of playing Premier League football and making the cut at senior level, many have to cope with the knockback of being released by their club, and the League are helping youngsters in such a position to prepare for their future.

Despite suffering the disappointment of not getting a professional contract, former Crystal Palace Academy player Martin Onoabhagbe says his experience at the club was a positive one and helped instil valuable life lessons.

"The Academy was very diverse and inclusive," Onoabhagbe says. "They were open, they were welcoming.  

"We were always encouraged to talk to anyone we want to if we had a problem with our mental health in any sort of way.

"Overall, my experience was good. I learned a lot about myself and about the game as a whole, and I'm very happy I did it."

Other pathways

Onoabhagbe was released by Palace at the age of 18 at the end of the 2018/19 season. He attended the Premier League's inaugural Pre-Season Preparation Camp for 18 to 23-year-olds in the summer of 2019.

"The Premier League opened my eyes to possible opportunities outside of football at a training camp," he adds.

"After being released, they showed me and a bunch of other players that football isn't the only pathway and there are other pathways for us after being released from a club."

Bright future

After receiving guidance at the camp towards going into education, Onoabhagbe enrolled at St Mary's University in Twickenham to study sports psychology, aiming to put his Academy experience to good use.

"I hope to possibly become a sports psychologist in the football industry, maybe help young players understand the psychological part of the game as well - the things that are within you such as anxiety, depression, all of those things," he says.

Also in this series

Part 1: 'We have a generation of exceptional talent'
Part 2: PL Academies provide positive experience, say parents
Part 3: How Liverpool helped Joel stay in football
Part 5: Under-16 Residential giving hope to released players
Part 6: Williams: There are prospects for released youngsters

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