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Sergio Visca Uruguay 1

People of the Union puts the spotlight on individuals across FIFPRO’s member associations who are dedicated to improving the wellbeing of professional footballers in their country.

Sergio Perez Visca, vice-president of Uruguayan union MUFP, talks about his work with the Mutual, the achievements made and the challenges ahead.

What is your current role and what is your background?

I'm still learning and I believe this will be the case until the end. I am convinced it's the only way to be better prepared and be able to help. When we occupy this type of position, we have the responsibility to be prepared and updated with everything that has to do with education, with organisations and with a world of things that we often learned as we went along. I am currently studying economics at the University of the Republic (Udelar). I have taken courses related to organisational management and a trainer's course at the Young Men's Christian Association.

If I had to specify my role at the union today, I would say at the moment I am focused on a project to develop a clinic within the headquarters of the Mutual, which is a quality service that is being provided and is going to be improved. We are also working on the creation of a retirement fund for players, which is not at all simple and involves extensive economic and financial engineering. We are working on this with a team and some of the board of directors.

Also, obviously, in the daily dynamics of the Mutual, we have an area of legal advice, an accounting area, annual audits, an administrative area, a sports complex with a technical staff, services that are provided within the Mutual such as dentistry, kinesiology, traumatology, nutrition, a programme that focuses on the players and their needs, which is called Mas Mutual (More Mutual). It has a team of psychologists and an educational area, and of all these things that I have mentioned. Those of us who are working on a daily basis to make it work in the best way are those of us who are on the board of directors today. Also the relationship with the Uruguayan Football Association (AUF), with the clubs, and the daily contact with the players, dealing with issues that arise on a daily basis, that would basically be my role today.

Sergio Visca FIFPRO Sudamerica
Sergio Visca, together with representatives of FIFPRO South America's player unions
Sergio Visca 4
Sergio Visca at the 2022 FIFPRO General Assembly
Sergio Visca Diego Scotti Gamadiel Garcia
Sergio Visca with SIFUP President Gamadiel Garcia (left), FIFPRO's Mateo Peyrouzet (second from right) and MUFP President Diego Scotti (right)

What do you like most about your work at the Mutual?

I like to understand what players are going through, the needs they have and to be able to offer them solutions to the different problems they have or will have in the future. To be able to work on this and to see we have achieved many of the things we are focusing on, such as the educational area, or in the clinic to give the players a quality service that in the market is relatively expensive, even more so for Uruguayan football that does not pay the same as in other countries. These are things that fill me with satisfaction and push me.

Which issue affecting player welfare are you most passionate about?

Mental health, education and post-football are three issues that we have focused on and which I think are very important in our context. We are working a lot on mental health. The pressure that players have even in very early stages of life, without being mature enough to withstand that pressure, the stress of the daily competition for a place, to achieve the goal of the weekend, to renew the contract, to be able to improve from the economic or sporting point of view, all these are reasons for pressure and we have to work on them.

I think education connects with everything. It is a subject that we have also covered with Mas Mutual, which has two important aspects: education and mental health, which undoubtedly come together at some point. What I find most comforting is being able to help. I mention these issues because they are central today, but helping from any place is comforting and that is one of the things that motivates me most in this work.

What is your proudest achievement as a union representative?

What has been achieved in terms of education and mental health with Mas Mutual. It is a source of pride for all of us here to know that there are many footballers who, thanks to the programme, have finished the basic cycle, they have finished high school and many continue with a tertiary career. It is a paradigm shift in the mentality of the Uruguayan footballer, who used to focus only on playing football but nowadays have opened their mind a little more because they know that one day their career will end and they will have to be prepared to do something else. Also, studying while you have your career as a footballer helps you to have a better sporting performance. It is a change that has taken many years but we are very proud and happy to be achieving it.

Mas Mutual: Education and mental health top priorities for Uruguayan union

The Mutual has achieved an important collaboration with the AUF at the educational level.

We have managed to get the AUF not to set matches on the days when players take exams. If a player could not attend an exam because they would be playing on that day, the player would miss the opportunity to pass and would have to wait for the next period, which would obviously delay progress in their education. Fortunately, we have managed to ensure that on the day of the exam the AUF does not set matches for the teams in which the players of those teams are registered to take the exam.

What do you think are the most difficult challenges for player unions?

I think the biggest challenge we have, from the players to the clubs and the Uruguayan FA, is to improve everything that has to do with infrastructure and the quality of the football product in general. Each one of us, from our own place, is doing our bit to contribute to this improvement. Within Uruguayan football, we all know that, although we are a football-loving country that exports great players abroad, we know that we have to make a leap in quality by improving the infrastructure and the quality of the product.

When you analyse professional football in Uruguay, you realise that there are many shortcomings. I think that the mentality and the attitude of the Uruguayan player to fight for a dream, of a culture that was born with children's football, leads to the players that come out of it. When you come to watch Uruguayan football and see the conditions that exist, the pitches, Uruguayan football in general, you can't understand how these players come out of our football. There is a lot to improve and we are working on that.

Sergio Perez Visca Peñarol
Sergio Perez Visca (second from right in bottom row) with the 2010 Uruguayan champions Penarol squad

Is there anyone in the union world or in sport in general who inspires you?

The Uruguayan footballer in general is an inspiration: the attitude to compete, to overcome adversity, to adapt, to try to progress, to fight for their dreams. It is very difficult to find that attitude in players from other countries, maybe because of a cultural issue, because of the difficulties we are going through, I don't know. Then they may be better technically or collectively, better physically and those issues are very difficult to match, but I think that the attitude of Uruguayan footballers, the essence to compete, is a source of inspiration.

What is your favourite football memory to date?  

It's difficult to single out one in particular because although I lost a lot more than I won, all the times I won were unforgettable. Playing in the youth teams at Penarol, a club of which I am a member and a fan like my whole family, and being able to make my debut, play and win the championship there, is unforgettable. I'll keep the learning that the dressing room gives you: the teamwork, fighting together with a team of players for a common goal that unites everyone. I think that when you stop playing and you see the selfishness that exists in some activities, you value it much more. What football teaches you as a collective sport is spectacular and today I value it very much.