Google+ Blueprint for Football: Life Away from Football

Monday, March 25, 2013

Life Away from Football

The following article was first published in Blueprint for Football's free bi-weekly newsletter.  To be among those getting these articles before anyone else, join here.

With eight medals won, of which three gold, the European Indoor Championships that were held in Goteborg towards the end of February were quite successful for British athletics particularly as the chosen squad was largely made up of young hopefuls.

One of the most battling performances of the weekend was that offered by Mukhtar Mohammed in the final of the 800m who had to fight off (almost literally) Belarussian Anis Ananenka in order to win bronze.

Mohammed's story is a particularly interesting one and not simply because, having been emigrated to England from Somalia when he was very young, it bears more than a striking resemblance to that of Mo Farah.  Four years ago, his dreams were those of making it as a defensive midfielder at Sheffield Wednesday where he had come through the academy ranks.

Those dreams looked like being fulfilled when he was used in a pre-season friendly but then the club's management decided that there was no future for him at the club and he was released.  It was at that point that, upon a friend's suggestion, he tried his hand at athletics at Sheffield's Don Valley stadium.  From there his new career was born.

Mohammed's story isn't unique.  Adam Gemili, who last year won gold in the 100m at the World Junior and then just missed out on making it to the final of the same event in the Olympics, had spent a number of years at Chelsea and Reading before moving to Dagenham and Redbridge.  Eventually and understandably, Gemili decided that a chance of making it at top level athletics was more worthy of his attention than an attempt to break into the defence of a League Two side.

With football being such a popular sport it is inevitable that it hoovers up a lot of athletic talent.  Sadly however, far too often those kids who are told that they don't have a future in the game are far too dejected to even think that of another sport.  Even sadder is the almost complete absence of structures to guide these players so that their talent doesn't go to waste.  For most, unless they're picked up by some other club, that release is likely to be the end of their sporting career.

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