Retiring from football presents numerous challenges for professional players.

Whether the process produces a loss of identity, financial uncertainty, difficulty gaining new employment or health and wellbeing complications, many players transitioning out of the sport face significant struggles adjusting to life after football.

One of the major challenges players face is experiencing a disconnect from the sport, their club, or the league in which they dedicated so much of their lives and careers to. 

Whether they ended their career abruptly – either through injury or their contract was renewed – a player can quickly loss connection with the club they called home during their playing days. 

Throughout the A-League season, the PFA aimed to address this disconnect, uniting players through PFA Past Players Program events across the country.

The events – held on A-League match days – brought players from within the A-League, W-League, National Soccer League and National Womens Soccer League eras together, providing a social environment for players to reconnect, share past experiences and consider their ongoing legacy in helping to grow football in Australia. 

The first event, held in Adelaide in May, brought the likes of CassioRachael QuigleyMarijana RajcicMatt KempMarcelo CarruscaMarcos FloresLucas Pantelis – a current PFA Player Development Manager – and Adriano Pellegrino together. The former players enjoyed a meal at Enzo’s Ristorante, reminiscing and reconnecting, before heading to Coopers Stadium to see Adelaide United in action. 

Pellegrino, who played in the NSL era with Adelaide City and Adelaide United before featuring for the Central Coast Mariners and Perth Glory in the A-League, said the events were an important initiative for the game and the players to embrace.

“These events are very important for a number of reasons; to bring back the old players and get them mingling together and also to give back to the club and to the fans and the people here in Adelaide and contribute as much as we can to the game moving forward.”

In Perth at the Brisbane Hotel, former Glory defender Dino Djulbic, who played 161 matches in the A-League in three spells in the West and separate periods at Gold Coast United and Melbourne Victory, said the events were vital to encouraging players back into the professional scene.

“It’s great because some players have either been left behind or haven’t had involvement through football and creating these events it’s possible to get them back together and get them back into the football” – Dino Djulbic

Chris Harold, who retired from football last season following the impact of the pandemic, said the event in Perth had provided him with the opportunity to speak to players about their own experiences of transition, to help him navigate the new prospect of retirement.

“[I’m] recently retired and trying to figure out this way of life that doesn’t involve football, so it’s really valuable to be able to speak to these guys and get their insight and their perspective, especially when you are initially transitioning. I think it’s a really valuable experience and it’s awesome that the PFA organise this sort of stuff especially for someone like me who has recently retired.”

At a Western Sydney Wanderers match, former stars of Australian football Alex Tobin OAMChad Gibson, Pablo Cardozo, Jake Timpano and Francis Awaratefe, alongside current professionals Nick Fitzgerald and Musti Amini, met at a corporate box at Bankwest Stadium.

Former Brisbane Roar captain and National Soccer League midfielder Gibson said that it was vital that the game keeps past players involved.

“Your career is short and then sometimes the game does forget about you. Personally, I have been fortunate enough to stay in the game… but I think it’s super important to make these guys feel part of the game and that the game hasn’t forgotten about them” – Chad Gibson

To find out more about the PFA Past Players Program and to sign up, click here.

Special thanks to Inception Video, Western Sydney Wanderers, Perth Glory and Adelaide United for footage of the Past Player Events and to Business Events Perth.