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The Hidden Downside To Being A Pro Player - Dominic Matteo
VeljaSrbin (FK Partizan Beograd) 5 years ago
I remember going to goalie practice when I played professional football at Serbian top division side FC Sartid, and our goalie coach told us that practice is not a practice until you dive at least 100 times on the ground. When I look at it, he was right because most of the goalie practices I had during thirteen years of playing football would not end without diving at least that much, sometimes even much more.

At that moment, I just had an flashback and one question went through my head, how many times does average person fall on the ground throughout life? 20? 30? Maybe 50 times if you are clumsy?! While I (and my colleagues) would drop 100 at least three times a week! Now that cannot be healthy! There is unwritten football rule, that goalkeepers do live shortest lives among all footballers, and I can understand why.

Thing about being a footballer is that outsiders see only good stuff, while bad things are most of the times buried under. If you did not read this article, you would think Matteo is just one of those players that peak early and than slowly disappear from big scene, without even knowing struggles he had to fight with.

Like anything in life, being a pro footballer has its pros and cons, and those guys have a lot to sacrifice in order to get where they are
Borg (Manchester United) 5 years ago
Wow, I had no idea keepers had to dive that much Nemanja!
BoboRed (Leeds United) 5 years ago
These were his comments, just after the op:

The doctors took out the two lowest discs out of my back and replaced them with metal ones. The rest of the discs were damaged too but we decided to try and realign them. It’s been the worst pain I’ve ever felt my life. To be honest, for 10 days after the operation it felt like someone had kicked the s*** out of me – and I reckon I’ve got a high pain threshold!

Even though the operation was a success, I don’t think I’ll ever be completely fine but hopefully I’ll be able to lift my kids again. My youngest is 18 months and my oldest whose five loves to be thrown in the air, but for the last couple of years it just got too painful
BigD123 (Wolverhampton Wanderers) 5 years ago
Good article about the lesser known side of football.

I think the normal public can be very impatient when it comes to recovery time with an injury, we see the saturdays that go by without our top goalscorer, defender etc but we often do not think about the physical and emotional pain in the players life every day as they battle to recovery often under too much pressure from there club and themselves. A very insightful article I hope matteo's op was a success and he is doing well
Borg (Manchester United) 5 years ago
This is a fantastic post Liam. I was never aware this type of thing was happening in football. In America you hear about it now and again but there are also rules here about painkiller shots and those types of things. It really makes you feel for those dedicated players in the lower league who are committed to the game but have a hard time raising the capital for a surgery like that
Ant (Liverpool) 5 years ago
As a long-time fan of Liverpool and yes, of Matteo, I'm ashamed to say I never heard anything about this. I hope he raises awareness as is his goal
JustGary (Manchester United) 5 years ago
As a professional sport, football is very poor at looking after the health and well-being of the players. The PFA need to take a much greater role
Tony (footytube staff) 6 years ago
That's a sad state of affairs for poor dominic matteo, I remember him when he first came on the scene at liverpool, and he had a few good years, but seemed to decline after that.
Nice article netnerd, as I often wonder about players who have went out of the game for one reason or another, the forgotten men.
I think clubs with all their medical teams and money should be responsible for ex players who were hurt in that teams cause, even if they reach their 60's - 70's.
I don't think clubs have ever done enough for players whos careers have come to an abrupt end, and should be made to look after these guys to a certain degree, should it be a desk job at the club or whatever, or paying for private treatment thereafter
GreatScot (Rangers)(Footytube Staff) 6 years ago
I used to live with a pro footballer who could sympathise with this, He's well retired now and into his fifties but he was told to cut his career short by the Doc's because of arthritis in his hips, he often told me stories of his playing days when he used to play against all the top teams in the old Division 1, but when he was forced to retire he said he was so gutted he completely ignored the game for years, in his early 40's he had both hip's replaced.... An operation usually meant for late 50's early 60's!
He had the op on the NHS I believe under doctors orders, no way he could continue without it, I remember some sort of contact with the PFA but he never mentioned how much they had helped, he was another one who played through the pain barrier for his club and paid the price for it I suppose, but listening to his stories he loved the lifestyle and wouldn't have swapped it for anything!
Tony (footytube staff) 6 years ago
Funny thing is john, I have a few friends who played irish league football, and had their careers ended prematurely, and these guys get very little, as most are only semi pro's, and have other jobs.
That added to the fact they can't do their own job outside of football is a double whammy, these guys have wives and kids, and at least the pros at the big clubs have a sort of a safety net, these guys don't.
And the funny thing is john, you wouldnt see them at a match either, unless its one of these old time get togethers on the pitch kinda thing.
It must be really hard to give up playing at a decent level, and even harder to go watch others playing
6 years ago
An interesting article here, raising some rarely discussed issues, from Leeds and Liverpool legend, Dominic Matteo

Professional footballers have much to be grateful for. Many of us are paid a fortune to do the most popular and sought-after job in the world. But I'll never let anyone tell me it's a free ride – not when I'm about to undergo a medical procedure that would give you nightmares.

At some point today I'll have spinal surgery at a hospital in Stoke, the only answer to an injury that has done its best to ruin my life.

The best case scenario is that three of my discs are replaced with metal. If the damage is as bad as it feels, I could end up losing five or six. Needless to say, I'm extremely apprehensive about the outcome.

Whenever you undergo an operation like this, you're obliged to sign paperwork accepting certain risks. The biggest of those is that I suffer permanent spinal damage – and that's been made very clear to me. I know the surgeon well and I trust him implicitly, but my health is entirely in the hands of someone else. Whatever happens, it'll be morphine for me this Christmas rather than lager.

This all stems back to my playing days and the injury I'm suffering from is the injury that finished my career. I was at Stoke City at the time and I broke down while I was out for a jog. After a short tour of a few back specialists, I was basically told that the best option – the only option – was to call it a day.

Those are horrible words to hear. You know you'll retire eventually, but you expect it to be on your terms. However much your body aches, you always assume a scalpel can fix you. But the writing was on the wall, whether I wanted to see it or not. The pain in my back had become so bad that I couldn't put my boots and socks on. I should have known what the final MRI scan would say.

The truth was that I'd been listening to sobering comments for some time. A lot of Championship clubs don't have their own doctor and when I was a Stoke player, we were looked after by a doctor in Cardiff. I was having problems with one of my feet and taking needles in the sole to get me through matches. They're some of the most horrible injections I've ever had. When I told the doctor this, his response was 'what on earth are you doing? ' If he'd had his way, I'd have packed the game in there and then.

Some of my team-mates felt the same. They'd look at the swelling and think 'is that really worth it? ' I thought it was.

This might seem naive or reckless but I wasn't going to let my career go because of a sore foot or a sore back.

My body was telling me to be honest with myself but it's asking a lot for someone who loves football with a passion to let it go.

With hindsight, I pushed myself to far.

But injuries are part of football and I don't mean in the sense that they happen to everyone from time to time. I mean that every week before every game, each club has players who are either struggling to be fit, likely to be fit or determined to be fit no matter what.

On any given weekend, countless professionals take part in matches against their better judgement or despite the fact that they'd be justified in refusing to play.

Much of the time, the blame for that lies with the players themselves. God knows I sympathise. The biggest worry for any footballer is the thought of losing your place in the side.

Take the 2000-01 season when I was with Leeds United – under no circumstances was I going to give in to injury if it meant I would be on the bench when we went to Milan or Valencia in the Champions League.

If a local anaesthetic did the trick then you could count me in. In my head, it felt like a better alternative than sacrificing some of the biggest nights of my career.

Blackburn Rovers were probably the only club where I didn't have injections to get me through matches. Everywhere else, and especially as a youngster with Liverpool, it was a routine response to niggles and strains.

At one stage with Leeds, I was doing no training through the week until a Friday morning, when I'd join in for a bit of work on the team's shape. The upshot was that I'd be warming up for every game with doubt in my mind about whether my fitness would carry me through.

Adrenaline usually does the trick but imagine throwing yourself into a game against Manchester United when you know you're in no shape to be taking part. I think the word is unsustainable.

So this is D-Day for me. I'm not joking when I say that I really need this operation to work. I haven't slept properly for months and I can't lift anything remotely heavy. People who know me will tell you that I've got the posture of a hunchback and the surgeon has predicted, in all seriousness, that I'll grow by two inches if this operation goes well. All in all, it's been a very long time since I was able to function properly.

I've already accepted that I'll never be able to sprint again. It'll be enough for me if I can get back to the gym and do a bit of jogging because I took a lot of pride in keeping myself fit, before I was a footballer and afterwards.

I want to finish my coaching badges next year and I've no intention of being a coach who watches from afar. I want to be hands on and in the thick of whichever club I'm working for. But that's entirely down to my body playing ball.

I sound like I'm fishing for sympathy but that's not what this is about. What I'd like people to do is to think about the implications for a player who wasn't lucky enough to earn my wages. I'm not disillusioned – I know that I was in the top bracket for salaries for a lot of my career and I've got the money to pay for this surgery. Which is just as well because it's costing an absolute fortune!

My condition meant I wasn't able to take out insurance and I won't get any funding from within the game. The point, I suppose, is that I don't need it.

But what is a lower-league player whose career was finished by football supposed to do? Live like a cripple for the rest of his life?

As things stand, I wouldn't be able to do a full day's work as a labourer or in any industry which involved physical work. It's not even an option.

The irony is that I'm not someone who's especially renowned for having retired due to injury. It makes you wonder how many lads are in the same boat.

I'll be writing to the Professional Footballers' Association about my situation, not to look for money or help but to make them aware of the position I'm in. Specifically, to make them aware that the cost of the operation has fallen entirely to me.

This has opened my eyes to the issue of aftercare for professionals and I really have to ask whether it's good enough.

Some of us can afford to cure the physical effects of football. It's safe to assume that many more cannot. If I won't stand up for them then no-one will.

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