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For every yes there are hundred nos
"I have no use for you. You are a good lad but Iím afraid you are not in my plans. I wish you all the best and if there is anything I can help you with let me know."
My lip starts to wobble, but Iím too confused to even cry. Everything is just blank Ė plain emptiness. Because Iím nothing, or at least feel like it. I still vividly remember the smell of those wooden chairs in that dressing room where I was told Iím not good enough for the team. I walked away coachís words haunting me Ė they still do. Those were the loneliest steps in my first sixteen years. I was too embarrassed to go home and too young to get drunk. So I did go training.
Springs falls without warning. So does the axe. It is quite a sad time in most of the clubs. For once in the training ground, itís not all about the first team. Young academy players get told whether they get a contract or get released. One by one they are asked to come to managers office. Those moments change their life. Itís not like in the Apprentice television show: emotional build up, powerful lightning and dramatic words ďyou are firedĒ. Itís just a silent handshake and your dream is shattered. No interviews and analysis afterwards, like it meant nothing to anyone else. Just the standard Ďby designí -speech: you are a good lad but not in my plans. Those plans were not yours or the onesí around you. Everyone in the training ground knows already from the body shape what is the verdict. Nobody asks. For once there is a proper, silent respect for another person in football. It feels like not a coincidence that this normally happens at the mistiest and coldest time of the year.
Many people say that being a footballer is an easy job. Tell that to the ninety-five percent walking away from a managerís office with a tearful step. If they donít punch you, theyíll probably tell it is at least not easy to get that easy job. There are only limited places in professional football and small percentage will make it. The others get released. Last weeks, once again some of my friends, my bootboy and other good lads and decent footballers are gone. It is just laws of the jungle. This all makes you feel that we really are in a monkey business.
However, it is only an opinion. There are no ultimate truths in football. Only opinions. Maybe Mourinho would have picked you instead. Maybe you were the best player of a lot and nobody saw it. Or a late developer. The choice someone makes between players is always questionable. Still you have to respect that those opinions are someoneís truths. There are no vendettas against anyone or managers wanting to release you for just pure joy or being pricks. There is no reason to be philosophical about it: no is a no and that is his opinion - that prick! This is most likely your first reaction. Bitterness and blame. He ruined my career or I was never even given a chance!
Truth hurts. And it is almost as hard for the one who has to tell it. Still it is better than a false hope. It would be reckless and disrespectful to encourage someone to try again and again. That would be undervaluing someoneís life. Giving false hope can destroy years, even lives. Whoever has the power of decision have to give his truth, not a sugar coded version. Then player himself can decide how he rates that opinion. Knowing there would probably have been someone else who had chosen differently - like himself. It is a lame consolation. After all, the whole world spins around feeling like a rejected nobody for that moment.
Where do you go from there? From being a footballer you are suddenly just nineteen. You have lived a life and a dream that is not valid anymore. The agents that promised you the world wonít be there for you. What do you tell people who had high hopes and expectations for you? Suddenly the school doesnít sound like a joke anymore. You realise that you have to redefine your life and yourself again. You have no status, no money, no education, no job and no dream. You are just nineteen. What Iíve seen and experienced, you have three options. Try another route to make it in football. Try another route to make it in life. Get bitter.
Apparently Zinedine Zidane has later on thanked the coach who didnít pick him for a local youth team. Michael Jordan wasnít good enough at one point. They were rejected. By someone who made his honest opinion. Thankfully there were others who thought differently and these players became sport legends. They found that other route. Maybe they were younger, hungrier or more talented, but it is not easy to give an advice for a young player where to start from any route at all. You know it can be too long and windy. Being released end of your teens doesnít give you many options. You can go for trials, which are even harder judgement calls. Or you can start from somewhere in the non-league. This doesnít just require hard work and talent but most of all character and hard head to get through all the rejections and unpredictable opportunities. This route is not suitable for most of us. That is why there shouldnít be a player, a manager, an agent or a dad to force anyone to a decision, it should be only playerís choice whether he sees a future in the business. Whether he thinks he can find and make it happen that other opinion out there.
Actually rejection is just around the corner in all walks of life. You might have wanted a girl who immediately gave you a custard pie in the face or after it was more serious just left you. You were perfect for a job but instead you just got a handshake. You got dismissed by schools party comitee. Didnít make the curling team. It is a horrible feeling, isnít it? It degrades you. You donít want to accept it, this is not you! Itís the biggest personality check in life. You might sink into self-pity or swore for revenge. Rejection is in top three of all the humiliating moments in life. Way before not being able to perform with a new girlfriend or congratulating someone for pregnancy when sheís just eaten a lot. However there is always another chance and a job or another girl. Just try again.
When you get rejected from the whole business it is way more serious. Everything you lived for is questionable. That is what is been told to these boys lately. And many others before. May be itís just an opinion but it is their reality. Itís their shattered dreams and everything they have believed in. There arenít other clubs waiting around the corner. Most of team mates will forget about you. It makes you think would you again put everything to a one card? Or like football anymore if you were not among that five percent that not got released! I am scared for the ones that still want this road. But also admire them. If you are passionate about something and willing to give it your best go, you can congratulate yourself already. Chasing dreams is going hand in hand with a potential of rejection, and that is scary. However, you could never forgive yourself if you didnít even try. So many have all the excuses why they never went for it. That is more of a failure than any unsuccessful attempt.
What should you tell then these young boys being released? I donít know but Iíve tried to explain that rejection tells nothing about you. It doesnít make you a worse person or a failure Ė not even a worse player. Something in one specific walk of life just didnít go your way. There are many factors why this didnít happen. You can assess the factors and resources and try to fix them. Or not. There are no right or wrong answers Ė just different ones. Just like with dreams. There are far greater things in the world you can achieve than football has to offer. Maybe one of those would suite you better than turning into a bitter wannabe footballer. It is in your personality and choice what meaning you want to give to that opinion that has changed your life. In the end, you know how to convince yourself youíll find something better, they didnít deserve you and she was not even that pretty. You live your life only according your own plans. You always have use for yourself.