Louis Saha, Iván Alonso, Christian Karembeu, Shabnam Mobarez and Rebecca Smith, on the Johan Cruyff Institute panel at WFS 2019

September 23, 2019

Louis Saha, Iván Alonso, Christian Karembeu, Shabnam Mobarez and Rebecca Smith, on the Johan Cruyff Institute panel at WFS 2019

Johan Cruyff Institute has invited former football players Saha, Karembeu and Alonso onto the stage at WFS 2019, together with the captain of the Afghan women’s team, Shabnam Mobarez, to talk about the important role of professional studies during an athlete’s active years in preparation for when the time comes to retire. The panel will be moderated by Rebecca Smith, Global Executive Director of Women’s Game at Copa90

Johan Cruyff Institute will once again stir up consciences at the fourth edition of the World Football Summit, which will bring together the best of the football industry at the Goya Theater in Madrid on September 24 and 25. Former international players Louis Saha, Iván Alonso, Christian Karembeu and Shabnam Mobarez have accepted our invitation to explain the reality that professional footballers encounter when they have to enter the world of work once their sports career is over. The panel will be on Tuesday, September 24, starting at 12:25 pm, on the main stage in the Goya Auditorium, moderated by Rebecca Smith, Global Executive Director of Women’s Game at Copa90.

In the same way that athletes need a boost and the help of a professional who believes in their ability and talent to engage in sport at the highest level, they also need to have resources to stay active when they have to retire. The academic studies that, in many cases, they put to one side during their most demanding years at the sports level, can give them the key to continue developing professionally in the sports industry. As Johan Cruyff said, “athletes are committed, goal-oriented people, who are eager to improve. With these characteristics and adequate academic training, they can lead sports institutions. Who better to serve the interests of sport than someone who has the heart of an athlete?”

In this sense, FIFPro also watches over the future of its players by supporting initiatives that help them make the transition with guarantees. The Association of Professional Footballers has recently launched the ‘Mind The Gap’ campaign with the support, among others, of the Italian national team captain, Giorgio Chiellini, who recently graduated with a Master in Business Administration.

According to the FIFPro 2016 Global Employment Report, only 13% of active professional footballers who play in Europe have completed higher education, compared to 53% of the EU male population they will be competing with when they apply for a job. In the case of women’s football, the difference is not so wide: 46% of active professional women footballers continue to study while they are playing.

Our guest on the panel

Louis Saha

A former footballer of French origin, Louis Saha spent most of his successful playing career in English football. After debuting with Metz, he went on to reinforce the squads of Newcastle United, Fulham, Manchester United, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland. With Manchester United he won two Premier League titles, a UEFA Champions League and a League Cup. He also played for the French national team in the UEFA Euro 2004 and the FIFA World Cup 2006. Louis retired at the end of the 2012-13 season, as a Lazio player, and after a period of reflection that led him to write a book, in 2014 he founded Axis Stars. Through his company, Louis uses all his professional experience and network of contacts to advise people on how to advance in their professional career.

Iván Alonso

Iván Alonso‘s story is an example of dedication, effort and improvement. He netted goals in Uruguay, Mexico and Spain, and was the key protagonist of the unforgettable final of the European Cup between Alavés and Liverpool in 2001. Twice the top scorer in Mexican and Uruguayan football, he finished his playing career at the powerful Argentine club River Plate. In December 2018, he took on the position of general manager of the Club Nacional de Football (Uruguay).

Christian Karembeu

Christian Karembeu left his mark in the best professional football leagues, but it was at Real Madrid where he had his greatest success, winning two Champions Leagues and an Intercontinental Cup. He was also a key piece in the French national team, with which he won the 1998 World Cup, the UEFA Euro 2000 and a Confederations Cup. Currently, he is a strategic advisor at Olympiacos F.C. and an investor in companies related to technology in sport. Christian is a member of the ‘Champions for Peace’ club, a group of 54 famous elite athletes committed to working for world peace through sport.

Shabnam Mobarez

Shabnam Mobarez was born in Afghanistan and emigrated to Denmark with her family in 2002 due to the war in Afghanistan. She started playing football with children in the street without her parents knowing and then she was invited to join a professional club, which she did with the support of her parents. She played for the Danish club Aalborg BK. She rejected an offer to play with the Denmark women’s team in order to represent Afghanistan, in a team she has captained from 2016 to 2018. In 2018, Shabnam and her teammates refused to sign a contract presented to them by the Football Federation of Afghanistan that severely limited their human rights as individuals and players. They would then raise their voices through the #Voice4voiceless campaign to ensure that their teammates in Afghanistan were treated with the same respect and protected against abuse within the federation. In 2018, Shabnam also played in the ‘Equal Playing Field’ match, in which a group of players from 20 different countries played a match in the Dead Sea region of Jordan.

Rebecca Smith (moderator)

Bex Smith first came to prominence as a World Cup and Olympic footballer representing New Zealand, culminating in her club career winning The Triple with VfL Wolfsburg as UEFA Champions League, German League, and German Cup winners up until her retirement in 2013 (due to a knee injury). During her time as a professional footballer she earned her degrees in Economics, Spanish, an MBA, and Masters in Psychology. Since then, she has worked for FIFA as Manager of Women’s Competitions and Strategic Planning and is now Global Executive Director of Women’s Game for COPA90, the world’s largest independent football media business.


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