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Behind the 90 Minutes
Bruce Djite’s attitude and approach to all aspects of his life, of which football is an important but just one part, is contagious.
Players looking to make the most of their career and set themselves up for when they hang up the boots could do worse than heed some of Djite’s advice on how to make the most of the opportunities and resources at their disposal.
Djite was kind enough to give us some of his time to discuss how he is setting himself up for life post playing.
Hi Bruce, thanks for your time. What motivates you to get up and about and make every post a winner?
BD: “My motivation is still the same as it was when I was in my early twenties but I guess your priorities change a bit as you get older. I’ve got a young family now so you start thinking about doing what you can for them.
When you look at the cost of living in Australia, especially house prices, unless you are a marquee player in the A-League it’s relatively difficult to get a foot in. Considering I am at the back end of my career, financials are more and more important when it comes to considering contracts. I’m not the sort of player who wants to play until I’m 37/38, I’ve got a clear vision and blueprint of where I want to go so I’m ready to keep playing now while I can still perform at a high level, however I have one eye firmly on my transition post football.”
Where did this blueprint come from? How did you work it out?
BD: “From the outset I’ve had a clear idea of who I am, where I want to go, what I want to do with my life, so the blueprint has always been there, it’s just about following it now.”
Do you think that’s something important for players to contemplate and plan for while they’re still playing?
BD: “Certainly. I think it’s critical. I think regardless of the level you’re playing, English Premier League, K-League or A-League, you don’t know what you don’t know and education really helps you in all facets of your life. I’m big on education. I’ve seen a lot of players struggle with the transition from being a professional athlete. I don’t want to fall into that trap, so you could say I’ve learnt from their mistakes.
I think it’s critically important but at the same time everyone is different. I’m interested in a lot of things outside of football. Some people are only interested in football and don’t know what they want to do besides football. However, even if you love the game that much and can’t picture yourself doing anything else, at least you can do your coaching badges or something to do with the game. I’m big on having something else to do. There’s a lot more to life than football, you’ve just got to find the right balance. It is important to remind yourself, how many people really care about past footballers and what they did during their careers? Not many.”
Leading on from that, how valuable and beneficial is the PFA Player Development Program and programs such as Beyond the 90 in giving players those options?
BD: “I think it’s very important. The resource of Player Development Managers, what the PFA is doing, I think players would be naive not to use the full resources of the PFA.”
What are some of the life lessons you’ve learnt over your career to date?
“I think resilience is a big thing and learning how to stay positive when things don’t go your way.”
You attended a Money in Sport conference a few months ago. Can you provide a bit of an insight into what that was about?
BD: “There were fantastic speakers there. I met some people from the corporate side of sport and it was really great event. An amazing networking opportunity and I enjoyed the mix of business and sport at the conference. Being there for three days and having the chance to hear from some fantastic keynote speakers and spend time with a number of executives and professionals in their fields was well worth it.”
With those sorts of events would you agree that what you get out of it comes back to what you put into it?
BD: “Exactly. As players we attend a number of club and corporate functions and you’ll generally see a group of players standing in the corner just talking amongst themselves, not speaking to anyone they don’t already know and not going out of their way to meet anyone new. I’m interested in a lot of things outside football so I take pleasure in talking to people about a whole range of topics.”
If you had to give some advice to players on how to mingle in these situations and the way to approach these events what you would say to them?
BD: “Everyone has got their own approach, their own personality, their own character, so my advice would be for them to just be themselves.
One thing I would say is everyone wants to know us now but when you stop playing it’s going to be a very different story so it’s good to build legitimate relationships, business networks and friendships now while you’re playing.
Finding people you can trust and who are doing what you can envisage doing when you’ve finished playing and making that work.”
Your contract with Suwon finishes at the end of the year. How do you handle that aspect of uncertainty of not yet having a contract?
BD: “I think as a footballer and even for the general public it’s important not to have to rely on your income from your work salary. When you’re a sportsperson and privileged enough to earn the sort of money on offer at such a young age, it’s important to build some sort of investment portfolio where you have passive income because that takes a lot of the financial burden off when you’re in these limbo periods.”
I think that’s critically important and I also think you need to know what level you’re at. You’ve got to be realistic. I know I’m not worth a million dollars a season so I don’t live my life like I’m going to earn a million dollars a season.
I have a good idea of what level I’m at and what sort of salaries I can command. I also have an idea of the landscape in different parts of the world, so knowing all of that then it’s up to the agents to do their jobs. It’s important to be realistic and not delusional. I think when you’re at a certain level and you know your level you should be able to find another deal.
I don’t have any anxiety or nervousness about the next chapter but I think that also comes with experience. If I was 22 in this position it’d be different but I’m 30 now and it is the first time I have ever been a free player.”
Finally, you’re undertaking a Bachelor of Business, how’s that progressing?
BD: “It’s going well. I’m just past half way. I plan on finishing it as I finish my football career to make that transition a bit smoother and I’m also really interested in international relations, so I will weigh up whether I do Masters of International relations once I finish my Business degree.”
Well all the best with the study and for a big 2018.
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