The Pro League Committee hosted the second of two Professional Players’ Seminars, in association with Abu Dhabi Sports Council and Dubai Sports Council and The AFC, FIFA, FIFPro and INTERPOL at the Dubai Police Officers’ Club on Sunday morning. Attended by a large number of professional players from Dubai and Northern Emirates-based clubs including Al Wasl and Al Nasr as well as H.E. Dr. Ahmed Saad Al Sharif, Secretary General of Dubai Sports Council, the seminar was opened by Colin Smith, CEO of the Pro League Committee, who welcomed all players and attendees. Mr. Smith also thanked the experts from the various participating organisations for offering their wisdom on a range of topics, covering the rights and obligations of professional players, as well as the important issue of match fixing, and Mr. Smith stressed the benefits of activating two-way discussions between the players and experts to improve the understanding of true professionalism.

Mr. Kaita Sugihara addressed the assembled players and explained the targets in his role as Head of the AFC Development Programme, confirming that professionalism in football encompasses players and clubs, and both on- and off-the-pitch activities. Mr. Sugihara detailed the vision of the AFC Development Programme, which aims to improve management of leagues, clubs, marketing, sponsorship and various other elements throughout the confederation.
Offering great insight into the world of the professional player, Mr. Brendan Schwab, Board Member of FIFPro, addressed the audience of players regarding their rights and obligations in their roles as professional footballers, reminding them that despite the unusual nature of their job, they are indeed employees with relevant rights and requirements.  Mr. Schwab emphasised the short-term nature and the added risk factors in the career of a professional footballer, and the subsequent need to protect their rights and interests in what can sometimes be an unstable career. Detailing the role of FIFPro as a global organisation representing over 55,000 professional players from 55 member unions worldwide, Mr. Schwab explained the support and protection FIFPro can offer to professional players through the functions of FIFA’s Dispute Settlement Body in contractual matters and in the event of career-threatening injuries and illnesses.
Brendan Schwab then partook in a panel discussion with former Saudi Arabia international striker Sami Al Jaber, and former Italy international defender Fabio Cannavaro to discuss the roles and responsibilities of professional players, and what makes the difference in being a good professional and a great professional. Sami Al Jaber, who is now working as trainee coach at A.J. Auxerre in France, inspired the congregated players with stories of his career successes and motivational words of advice, saying: “Playing football as a career is a dream; something to be proud of and treasure for your whole life.” With his extensive knowledge of life as a professional footballer in the GCC, Al Jaber touched on the perceptions of footballers from the region and the differences between life as a footballer here and in Europe. “There is a perception outside of the region that GCC players are spoilt and pampered, but if you have the right drive, ambition and discipline you can overcome this. Your ambition as a professional footballer should never be about financial gain; it should be about career highlights and achievements,” the former Al Hilal star striker said. “Passion for the game is key, as well as the right training, educating yourself, improving your physical and mental weaknesses and overcoming any disadvantages that may affect your performances on the pitch,” added Al Jaber, who previously plied his trade in the English Premier League with Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Echoing Al Jaber’s advice, 2006 FIFA World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro emphasised the importance of being a model pro off the pitch, in order to give oneself the greatest chance of succeeding on the pitch. “The most important thing is to prepare your body well; sleep well, eat well – you wouldn’t put diesel in a Ferrari and expect it to drive to its best abilities – and always focus on your dream. There are many distractions in life but players need to maintain a consistently professional mentality in order to succeed at the top level,” the former Napoli, Parma, Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid defender told the congregation of UAE Pro League players, whilst also pointing out that development of young players from grass roots level is essential for the betterment of UAE football in general.
Representatives from INTERPOL and FIFA, Julie Norris and Nick Raudenski, provided a vital segment of the seminar to raise players’ awareness of the threat and risks of match fixing. By involving players in discussion and role plays, the message that UAE is not immune from the danger of match fixing – despite betting not taking place in the country – was heard loud and clear by the audience. Players were warned of the consequences of becoming complicit in match fixing and were given tips on how to spot a potential approach from a match fixer, and what to do in order to report any suspicious activities to the relevant FIFA department.
To view the original story, please click here