Homero Diaz is still enjoying the buzz of football matches three years after ending his career as a professional player.
The 35-year-old former defender works as a physiotherapist for Argentine team Quilmes, allowing him to remain in the thick of the action every weekend at stadiums like the Bombonera stadium of Boca Juniors.
“Footballers often get depressed when their career ends but that has not happened to me,’’ said Diaz (pictured in the middle of the front row on the Quilmes substitutes' bench). “It’s as though I carried on playing: I travel with the team and listen to the team talks. I am still living the passion.”
Diaz, who played for second-tier teams for 15 years, is among a group of Argentine footballers who used financial support from the foundation of the union, Futbolistas Argentinos Agremiados, to study for a second career as a sports physiotherapist.
Others have studied to become chefs, accountants or journalists. Still, many players never finish their secondary school education and “only a very small percentage of players decides to study for a second career,” Diaz said.
In his spare time, Diaz speaks to young footballers to encourage them to finish their schooling or start a university degree.
Gonzalo Minguillon, a 34-year-old midfielder at fourth-tier Sacachispas, has started working as a physiotherapist after graduating from university. He decided to start a second career because of problems with late salary at a previous club.
“We were always paid two or three months late,” Minguillon said. “There was a lot of uncertainty. You couldn’t even pay for a TV in instalments, let alone buy a home.”
Minguillon said “not much has changed” in the last ten years when it comes to the financial instability of Argentine football.
The union’s foundation, Fundacion el Futbolista, covered half his fees and provided valuable encouragement, he said. Now working in the afternoons treating patients suffering from paralysis and Parkinson’s disease, he hopes to eventually work for a football club.
Footballer Gonzalo Minguillon oversees treatment of a patient at a Buenos Aires clinic.
Gaston Bojanich combines working part-time as a physio in a clinic with a career as a professional footballer for first-division Temperley.
He trains in the morning and treats injured athletes in the afternoon.
He said he would have struggled to complete the physiotherapy course if the union’s foundation had not helped him pay half the fees of as much as $700 a month.
“It was exhausting mentally and physically studying and playing football but it was worth the sacrifice,” Bojanich, 31, said. “The day I stop playing I have a profession to fall back on.”
Luis Angel Vildozo also plans to remain in football when he finishes playing -- as a journalist.
Vildozo, who plays for second-division Club Atletico All Boys, has completed a course in journalism and hopes to land a job as a radio commentator. The union's foundation paid for most of the costs of the three-year course.
"I want to complete some of the dreams I didn't manage as a player," Vildozo, 35, said. "Like being at Champions League matches and the World Cup."
- Published: 16 March 2017