When it comes to our football heroes, we’re looking for players with talent but also, I believe, style and personality. In sport, we often talk about courage, determination and leadership, but ‘personality’ is also about kindness, generosity and intelligence. That’s why I’ve made a list of 5 of my favourite off-the-pitch football heroes. These guys are ultimate role models, showing that there’s more to life than just the beautiful game.
1. Juan Mata – Co-founder of charity Common Goal
Mata has won almost every major trophy in football: the Champions League, the FA Cup, the Europa League, and, of course, the World Cup and Euro double with Spain. But despite all his success on the pitch, the Manchester United midfielder is still Mr Nice Guy off the pitch. In 2017, Mata helped start an awesome charitable movement called ‘Common Goal’. He promised to donate 1% of his wages to football charities around the world, and asked lots of other players and coaches to do the same. A year on, and Common Goal has 94 members, but there’s only one, Juan Mata!
2. Giorgio Chiellini – Business Student
Not only is Chiellini one of the best defenders in the world, but he was also one of the first members of Mata’s Common Goal charity. Do we need any more reasons to love him? Here’s one just in case – Chiellini is a really clever guy! As well as being a star student of football, the Juventus player also has a Masters Degree in Business Administration. Chiellini’s subject? ‘The Business Model of Juventus Football Club in an International Context’. No wonder he got such a good grade!
3. Hal Robson-Kanu – Co-founder of sports technology company Sports Ledger
In Wales, Robson-Kanu will always be remembered for his amazing Cruyff turn and finish to beat Belgium at Euro 2016. He even won the FIFA Puskás Award for best goal of the year. One strike doesn’t maketh the man, though. Robson-Kanu is already working on his second career – crypto-currency expert and blockchain entrepreneur. I’ll leave it to the West Brom forward to explain those complicated terms! Robson-Kanu is so passionate about sports data analytics and technology that he’s working on his own platform called ‘Sports Ledger’.
4. Marvin Sordell – Poet and Mental Health Campaigner
Back in 2012, Sordell was seen as England’s next big striker, but like so many, the teenager struggled to live up to the great expectations. He now plays his football for Burton Albion in the Championship, where he’s happier and free to work on his important off-the-pitch interests. These include poetry and campaigning for better mental health support in football. Keep up the great work, Marvin!
5. Mathieu Flamini – Environmental Entrepreneur
The former Arsenal midfielder is now 34, but while his football career is fading, his business career is growing stronger and stronger. Back in 2008, Flamini co-founded GF Biochemicals, a company that makes ‘green’ alternatives to oil-based products. Basically, he’s an eco-superhero, saving the planet from destruction!