Why are we always so shocked when professional footballers quit the game for a similar reason many other people quit their jobs? Shane Supple was the latest to “shock” the football world with his decision to quit Ipswich Town at the age of 22 to pursue another career, rumoured to be in catering. Supple explained to the club’s official site his reasoning:
It’s obviously a big decision but I feel that playing professional football is not something I want to continue doing as a career. There is no one reason why I have made my decision, there are a number of factors but deep down my heart is not in the game anymore and I’m not going to go into work every day trying to convince myself that it is so it’s the right time for me to walk away.
“I suppose you could say that I have fallen out of love with the game and when then happens I’ve always said to myself that I wouldn’t hang around. All I wanted to do when I was younger was play in the Premier League but as you grow up you realise that there are other things in life and to be honest, the game is not what I thought it was.
His manager Roy Keane said he respected the decision, and that it was not a snap choice: Supple had been considering quitting football for “a year or two” and he had only “persevered for other people.”
Of course, we are shocked by such decisions because we can’t imagine someone turning down being paid to play what we spend an awful lot of our time and money just to watch.
There was similar bemusement last year in American soccer when Ty Harden quit the LA Galaxy to finish his degree and do volunteer work in Africa. “It was a long and hard decision,” he told Kristian Dyer. “I knew that I wanted to go back to school and get my degree,” Harden continued. “But I also wanted to do more with my life than simply kick a ball.”
Harden has since returned to MLS, but his broader perspective remains in tact. “Soccer had become a burden,” Harden explained after his return. “I needed to get away from it. It just felt like I was missing out on things.”
One has to respect that rather than taking the pay cheque and pretending to care, the likes of Harden and Supple take the honest decision to walk away from the sport.
One wonders if Supple will return to the game like Harden some day, having removed the burden of feeling he was bound to satisfy other people’s dreams as a professional footballer, and might be able to enjoy playing instead after a renewed lease of life outside its insular culture.