Finding himself at a loose end after his playing career ended, ex-Celtic and Sheffield Wednesday player Regi Blinker has endeavoured to help other former professionals in the same situation through the Life After Football Network.
Regi Blinker, arguably the epitome of the cult footballer, retired in the summer of 2006. Like many fellow professionals, he had a few ideas about what he was going to get out of bed for every day post-football, but felt the guidance available to him was minimal at best.
“I had ideas, but they never came out. Being a football agent or working as a sales rep for Nike were a few of them. The moment you finish playing, you are on your own. Nobody will help you, not the club, not the union and sometimes not even your agent.”
Luckily Regi’s entrepreneurial spirit took over at this point and he developed a business plan to help both himself and the hundreds of other professionals who find themselves in the same position every year.
“This is exactly why we started our platform Life After Football, to give players food for thought about their lives after football. It’s a topic nobody pays attention to and that’s a shame! Without the right advice, it can go wrong and players end up broke. My aim is for LAF to become an international platform for football players at the end of their careers, from lifestyle and financial advice to providing a network to help them back into normal society. This is still far away, but it is possible!”
The LAF project started with the production of a glossy lifestyle magazine primarily for footballers printed in Dutch. In addition to interviews with former Dutch stars Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Kluivert, Johan Cruyff and many more, the publication also features information on the latest trends in beauty, fashion and gadgets, which all fits snugly with the brief of ‘a must-read magazine for the sporting man with a pampered lifestyle’. Boasting a circulation of 45000 copies throughout the Netherlands, numerous annual star studded events and an upcoming Dutch TV show, the project is most definitely gaining momentum.
“I had ideas, but they never came out. Being a football agent or working as a sales rep for Nike were a few of them. The moment you finish playing, you are on your own. Nobody will help you.."
“At the moment the focus is on the extension of the LAF platform. We publish the magazine in Holland, Belgium and Dubai with England, Spain and France next on the menu.”
Surely any foray into the English market is destined for success with Regi at the helm; such is his continued popularity with football fans of the nineties.
Regi started his career at Feyenoord under the tutelage of club legend Wim Jansen. Despite spending his first ten years in football at the club, Regi explains that it all changed upon Jansen’s exit.
“In 1996 we got a new coach called Arie Haan. I didn’t fit into his plans anymore, because he wanted to bring in other players and make money from it. This was the time for me to move on and Sheffield Wednesday was interested. A chance in the Premier League was something I didn’t have to think about very long, so I took it!”
Despite the obvious difference in styles between the English and Dutch top flights, Regi approached his big move in typical laid back fashion.
“To be honest, I had zero nerves going to England. My debut was against Aston Villa on a Wednesday night. The fairness of the game was attractive and I managed to score two goals that night. That filled up my ‘credit book’ straight away! Many foreign players speak of the great pace and strength needed to succeed in the Premiership. The pace was very high but I enjoyed every second of playing in this attractive league. I wasn’t very big or strong, more a skilful dribbler with some pace. This was my advantage against the big British defenders of the time!”
He left the Owls in 1997 as part of a swap deal with Celtic for the eccentric but utterly lovable Paolo Di Canio. This also meant that he could team up once again with his mentor, Wim Jansen.
“Celtic has been a revelation for me. Celtic is a massive club and I had good and bad spells. Overall though, everywhere I go and meet Celtic fans, they respect you for being part of stopping the ’10 in a row’ and playing for Celtic. It will always be part of my life.”
After 3 years at Celtic Park, Regi returned to the Netherlands for spells with RBC and Sparta Rotterdam before retiring whilst at amateur club Deltasport Vlaardingen.
Despite ending his professional career, Regi does still keep his foot in with the game, appearing for Celtic on numerous occasions in the Selco Masters Cup, whilst also joining in on the inaugural Life After Football Business Network Event in June of this year alongside a host of other big names.
It seems fair to say that Regi Blinker will be fondly remembered for his flair and flowing dreadlocks by all who witnessed his time in British football, and hopefully we will be hearing a lot more from him in the near future when his Life After Football brand hits the UK.
Find The Original Article At: www.whateverhappenedtoblog.co.uk
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