High performance standards, increased competitiveness and the rise of fresh talent these days has drastically shortened the player’s life as a sportsperson. And as they approach the time when they better stop and make way for others in the profession that earned them fame, fans and fortune, they and everyone else around starts to wonder: what next?
It is not as if a sportsperson would continue to play a sport till he or she is 60 years of age and retire like any normal person would at that age. Even if they kept themselves extremely fit, playing till 60 is out of the question. If an idle mind is the devil’s playground, which arenas do retired sportspersons head to?
Generally, most of the top players begin their second innings with an autobiography. In this regard, the controversial personalities, the inventors of a new playing technique, the game-changers or the record holders have a definite edge over the other players. Books by former sportspersons become hot-selling commodities, sometimes even featuring in the bestsellers lists for a long time.
In Pakistan, Shoaib Akhtar’s Controversially Yours, Islahuddin’s Dash Like Islah and Fazal Mahmood’s From Dusk to Dawn have remained on the shelf of the book lover with a heart for sports. Sometimes, the book launch of such an autobiography also brings the player back into the limelight, providing him or her with an opportunity to come back by taking on other sports-related jobs such as a sports commentator perhaps. Roy Keane’s The Second Half, Luis Suarez’s Crossing the Line, KP-The Autobiography by Kevin Pietersen, Rough Ride by Paul Kimmage back in the ’90s, Open by Andre Agassi and To the Point by Herschelle Gibbs are some famous international autobiographies that became instant bestsellers due to their content, the timing of their launch or just because of the charisma of the players who wrote the books.
Played, conquered and retired … now what?
One of the most relevant jobs, post-retirement, is of coaching and mentoring. Local and international stars can be entrusted with the coaching of junior, local or international teams. David Beckham, for example, experimented with two academies, one in London and another in Los Angeles, but both were shut down. But with coaching quickly turning into a specialised job, the coaches are expected to complete different coaching programmes and levels for diplomas and certificates. So many players these days have already cleared the initial evaluations of being a coach well before their time to retire.
Think Rashid Latif and Basit Ali, for example. The duo had become infamous after blowing the whistle on corruption within the Pakistan national team in the 1990s. Latif went on set up an academy of his own while Ali became a celebrated coach on the domestic circuit. Players also develop academies in which individuals from any of walk of life can learn the skills and traits of the game, sometimes directly from the maestro himself. Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed in his younger days is said to have trained directly under Rashid Latif.
The best players of their era are also vested with the position of the selector for the national team or they are handed over the job to hunt down raw talent in their respective games to be groomed for future endeavours.
There are also other administrative positions within the governing body or council of the respective sport which also seem to be one of the most lucrative office desk-jobs for the player after he or she hangs up the boots for good.
Think Javed Miandad, who has even served as director of cricket operations for the Pakistan Cricket Board. Or Mudassar Nazar, the academies chief, who was roped in by the ICC to help groom cricketers from non-Test playing countries.
On the other hand, different eateries being endorsed by the cricketers, or clothing lines such as the one by Shahid Afridi are some of the very known examples of how the players are bringing their hard-earned global recognition into their businesses, post-retirement.
The religious cause
Sometimes, the players, finding their belief and faith in latter half of their sporting career, also start pursuing the religious cause, to spread awareness about their religion among the masses and playing the part of a role model. Think Saeed Anwar and later Mohammad Yousuf.
The sports show host / commentator
The sports icon in the subcontinent is a real hero in the eyes of the public. In the eyes of news and sports channels, he or she is a sellable commodity. With the mushrooming of various channels, a lot of opportunities have opened up for ex-players to fill in empty spots and sometimes even an entire airtime slot. Thus you can now see gameshows being hosted by retired players as well. Think Wasim Akram, whose post-retirement career has largely been built behind the commentator’s microphone. With so many commercialised sports-team games being played and televised almost throughout the world simultaneously, the channels are forced to hire these sportspersons who may have a sound knowledge of the game. They can easily get jobs as a critic, game expert or commentator.
Politics becomes a very productive career pathway for former players. Imran Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gary Kasparov, Arjuna Ranatunga and Sanath Jayasuriya are just some of the names, who have opted to play a role in their country’s politics. Social causes such as building hospitals, schools, sports academies, etc., also become the focus of these ex-sportspersons.
Referee / Umpire
Yet another option is to turn into a fulltime referee or umpire of the same game. Again different courses and levels prescribed by the game’s governing body are to be followed and completed to reach a certain level. Kumar Dharmasena and Paul Reiffel are two sportsmen from the previous generation who have reinvented themselves to return to the game they played with distinction.
The writer tweets @Ali_Shahid82
Published in Dawn, EOS, March 19th, 2017