Can you imagine being able to prove several years of experience at the highest level when starting a job?
Athletes are some of the few people who can do this, and with a spectacular level of demand. Former Icelandic football player, Gretar Steinsson, completed the postgraduate program in Football Management at the Johan Cruyff Institute to carry the work methodology, preciseness and experience acquired in his career as a professional footballer to clubs. With the necessary knowledge at the management level, an athlete can make a difference. (Images courtesy of MUTV).
You’ve said “a player always wants to ask for a raise after a good season, but it never occurs to them to give the money back after a bad year.” Can a former player be the best person to assess what a club should pay for a transfer?
I think that it works two ways between a football player and a club, and I think that the synergy between a player and a club needs to be better. Because the club always wants more and the player always wants more, but there needs to be a synergy between when it is the right time and when not. Players ask for everything, they want a higher salary straight away, but they’re not willing to start lower and increase levels, increase performance to reach that level. I for example, I’m with performance-related contracts because I’m confident in my own ability that I will reach those goals, so I would want to start low and improve and reach those goals instead of being higher, but I think that it could be managed much better so it would be a win-win situation for the player that performs really well and as well for a club, that with the player performing well will reap the benefits and jointly will really reap the benefits together.
What did you learn at the Cruyff Institute that you didn’t know?
I think the organizations as a whole in a football club, being a player, organizations / clubs are not really open to players sticking their noses in what’s happening. Even though I was really open, I wanted to know more, clubs really want to keep distance from players, you play football and that’s your job, but I was always interested in what was happening, why don’t we do different things, so now it’s really helpful to see it really from the board level instead of me looking from the ground level up, it was nice to see the other way around from the board level, from every department to see how everything implicates what happens and everything is important to maximize what’s possible on the football pitch, so it was really nice to see it from the other way around, not just from a footballer’s eyes.
According to Johan Cruyff, an athlete is trained to do any job because he’s used to fighting to be the best everyday. Do you agree?
I agree, because if you take all the experience that you, like the rollercoaster you go through as a player, you meet good people, bad people, you make the rights decisions, wrong decisions, you win and lose and you need the people around you because in football and as a sport person you need people around your individual sport or group sport, you need people and we work together because we have a goal, a destination, and we know that alone we can’t go there. So we are really good outside of football, because we are highly driven, we can work under pressure really well, we can make decisions, we can stick and we can stick with the decision whether right or wrong because we are confident at the time that the decision is right, then we live with the right or wrong decisions. So we can make hard decisions, but there’s a reason behind it, and that’s reaching our goals, so we can, I wouldn’t say cold-hearted, but we can be more determined in making decisions and sticking with the plan because we want to win, we want to reach the final goal. So I think sportsmen within a company can show qualities of management, qualities of leadership and decide to reach a goal.
Would you encourage other footballers to follow your path towards management?
I hope that more football players will look at other ways than coaching. For me, every year players retire and become coaches, but if you count the jobs there are only a certain amount of coaching jobs, only a certain amount of teams, a certain amount of clubs and they will not increase. On the other side of football, business-related certificates always grow. So you always need people with that experience, that network, that quality that players have. And I do think that footballers are better and they can cope with it, they can learn, they’re quick learners so they could work on the business side of football and they don’t have to be on the football site, but I think they need the education and a little bit of awareness that this is the possibility, and someone to give them the trust to give them a chance to work because then first you get the quality out of the player when you give them the confidence in being inside of a football club and actually making a difference.
Where do you want to direct your experience as a player?
I’ve travelled a lot and I’ve seen a lot of clubs and federations and I met leaders in sport all over the world and what really interests me now is the mindset of an organization, the attitude of an organization to really input a high performance culture, and I want to be related to the football side, the technical side of football, but I would like a football club to be structured with a high performance mindset and that’s what has really caught my eye and I really believe that is the future of football. And I think that in the next 5 or 10 years you will see that concept more within the bigger clubs, some clubs have it, but I think that in the future that will be the change on the manager’s side as it doesn’t cost any money, it’s just implementing a mindset, an attitude and a desire to reach a goal and you can maximize it within any budget. So I’m beginning to believe that that is the future of the management side of football.