Off The Ball

All in a day’s work

Sandra Smisek holds the mooncake for the mid autumn festival in China
© Getty Images

The career of a top-level player tends to be short and intensive, a whirl of training sessions, matches, flights and tournaments that leaves little time for them to think about doing anything else, at least until they hang up their boots.

As reveals, however, there are some well-known footballers who do find the time to combine the pursuit of trophies with other professions, some of them with little connection to the game they love.

Fabian Boll is one of the game’s many multi-taskers, patrolling his midfield beat with Germany’s St Pauli, while also continuing his family’s long association with the police force. Part of the squad down at Hamburg’s Police Station 17, the same number that he wears for his club, Boll is the son and grandson of police officers and the husband of a female member of the local constabulary. Working half-days only, he runs out at the weekend for his club, who were relegated this season from the Bundesliga.

Boll is not the country’s only law-enforcing player. A two-time world champion with Germany and a striker with 1.FFC Frankfurt, Sandra Smisek retired from international football in 2008 to devote more time to her police work.

An idol at Norway’s Rosenborg, Roar Strand was a talented and versatile midfielder who could also double up as a sweeper - a chimney-sweeper that is. Strand perfected his soot-cleaning skills in the early part of his career with the Trondheim giants, part of coach Nils Arne Eggen’s cunning plan to keep the player’s feet firmly on the ground. The scheme worked to perfection, with the level-headed Strand going on to collect an incredible 16 championship winner’s medals with Rosenborg.

Movers and shakersThere are no shortage of fine players who have also shown a gift for business. Take former Chile defender Javier Margas, who represented La Roja at the 1998 FIFA World Cup France 1998™ and won the Copa Libertadores in 1991 with Colo Colo. In the early part of his successful career Margas spent his mornings training and his afternoons running operations at a concrete factory. As if that were not enough, he then opened a motel company with his father, and since retiring from the game his business investments have brought him further success.

Yet, there are times when sustained success on the pitch can present a problem for even the shrewdest of operators. After making the switch to Europe, flying Brazilian full-back Cafu found it so hard to keep an eye on his tow truck company in Sao Paulo that he had no option but to close it down.

There are no such logistical problems for Liverpool and England’s Steven Gerrard, just one of the many stars to invest their money in the restaurant trade. Resisting the temptation to open up a typical English pub, the Kop idol choose to pump his cash into the relaunch of his favourite eatery, an upmarket French brasserie in Southport, just a few miles from Anfield. Mohamed Zidan, a champion of Africa with Egypt in 2008 and 2010, and a Bundesliga winner with Borussia Dortmund last season, has a similar sideline, having opened a modern watering hole in downtown El Cairo, where customers can enjoy a coffee and a game on the Playstation.

Old dreams, new venturesWhen it comes to unusual enterprises, Gennaro Gattuso’s business concerntakes some beating. Hailing from a modest background and a family with long ties to the fishing industry, the Milan warhorse fulfilled a long-cherished dream last year when he opened a luxury fishmonger’s, Gattuso & Bianchi, in the city.

Barcelona and Spain midfielder Andres Iniestahas also gone back to his roots. For the last few years the scorer of the goal that won the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa has been growing vines near his hometown of Fuentealbilla, situated in one of Castilla-La Mancha’s traditional wine-making areas. The first few bottles of his white wine went on sale this spring, along with a special range named after his newly born daughter, Valeria.

Peru’s Claudio Pizarro and France’s Robert Pires share a passion for horse-breeding, one they have been able to nurture thanks to their triumphs on the pitch. Meanwhile, Argentina’s Sergio Aguero has used some of his earnings to found the Aguero Competicion racing team, which gives young drivers lacking the necessary financial resources the chance to compete in the demanding world of motor racing.

We end our look at the other occupations and business concerns of famous players in England, where Arsenal duo Theo Walcott and Andrei Arshavin have carved out alternative niches for themselves. In the case of the speedy wing man, literary acclaim has come his way with the publication of four novels on the adventures of TJ, a character based on the player himself (who was once known by those initials) and his friends in the Parkview school football team. His Russian team-mate’s side job is slightly more daring: a line of women’s underwear that has proved a big success in his native Russia and which features pieces designed by the player himself.

Not to be outdone, Manchester United and England centre-half Rio Ferdinand also has a few strings to his bow. Something of a trendsetter in the UK, Ferdinand edits his own digital fashion and lifestyle publication #5 Magazine, named after his shirt number, and also runs his own record label, White Chalk Music.

Music and fashion moguls, racing supremos, policemen and chimney sweeps. Who says footballers do not have a head for business and the stomach for hard work?

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01 Jul 2011