Former PFA member and Newcastle defender Fabricio Coloccini is back at school aged 37.
The veteran defender is finishing his secondary school two decades after cutting his education short to launch his football career.
While still playing top level football in Argentina, he has passed three of the eight subjects necessary to graduate from high school. He sat the exams in history, social studies and language in public halls in Buenos Aires next to dozens of astonished teenagers.
“They are surprised to see me there doing exams with them: they don’t think it is necessary for me,” Coloccini told the 'Mind the Gap' campaign. “But I tell them my story and encourage them to finish their studies. When I was their age I didn’t realize it was important.
“Footballers think they will earn a lot of money and don’t need to pass exams. But football is a short career and when you get to your mid-30s there is a whole life in front of you.”
‘Mind the Gap’ is a project led by FIFPRO to help athletes transition as smoothly as possible between their life as an athlete and a new career.
Coloccini returned to Argentina to play for San Lorenzo in 2016 following an eight-year stint at Newcastle United in the English Premier League and spells at AC Milan, Atletico Madrid and Deportivo La Coruna.
“I regret the period when I didn’t do any education,” Coloccini said. “We have a lot of free time as football players but education isn’t part of the culture.”
He was inspired to finish his secondary schooling because he has two children aged 15 and 12. “When I returned to Argentina, I felt like I couldn’t encourage my children to work hard and study, if I didn’t finish school myself.
“So I am getting stuck in. For me it’s a personal quest. It’s difficult. You lose the habit of studying, of sitting down and preparing for an exam. It’s taken me time to get used to it again.” “I’ve got family and football commitments – I’m at the physio a lot these days because of my age. But it’s a question of not putting things off. Discipline is very important in football and it’s something that you have to learn as a player, so that helps me.”
He also did a coaching course last year and is taking another course organized by Fundación El Futbolista – a foundation overseen by the Argentine player union - with a view to possibly becoming a technical director.
In the future, it will be compulsory to have completed secondary school to take such a role at a club in Argentina, he said. Coloccini recently signed a two-year contract extension with San Lorenzo through June 2021, when he will be 39.
“I haven’t decided what I will do after my career,” Coloccini said. “But I am preparing myself as best as I can for the moment I stop playing. I only wish I had started earlier.”
Coloccini is studying for the eight secondary-school exams online in his spare time. With San Lorenzo through to the round of 16 in the Copa Libertadores, he has less time to prepare than last year.
The PFA offer a wide selection of education programmes, and funding is available to support any nationally recognised qualification for current or former members. If you’re interested in exploring your next steps, learn more here.