According to a recent study conducted by accounting firm Deloitte, the European football championships have approximately three quarters of the football players who are playing in World Cup.
What attracts so many players to the European football leagues over other world teams? Many argue that the main reason behind this trend is money. European football generated €15.7 billion during the 2008 season alone. This revenue comes mainly from tickets and merchandise sales as well as TV slots and adverts. English, German, Spanish, Italian and French championships have particularly high revenues which account for half of the continent total revenue.
With these colossal amounts of money, it is not surprising to see many young players from South America or Africa so eager to come and play in Europe in the hope of being recruited by prestigious clubs like Manchester, Chelsea or Barcelona. However even extremely fit and skilled professional football players are no different from expatriates when it comes to being relocated and living and working abroad.
Employees of corporate or public sector organisations and football players alike deal with the challenges of culture shock and adaptation when moving to a new environment which can be quite different from the one they have just left. The language, food and infrastructures can be dramatically different as well as cultural values and attitudes on a social and professional level. Adapting to these new elements can sometimes be difficult for young players who are far from home, especially with atmospheres of rivalry which can make things even tougher.
Like any other international assignees, foreign football players have to cope with the differences in the way they work. Depending on where you are, players may be faced with different management and training styles as well as differences in how the game is played. For example in Italy the Calcio tolerates rough defence and a harsher physical involvement while the English Premiere League emphasises the attack, leading to spectacular and open games. While some players adapt naturally to these differences, other can struggle and witness a decrease in their overall performance.
Players own cultural values can also become obstacles, particularly in how they adapt to different management or training styles. Their relationship to authority, for example, and how they perceive their manager or their attitude to time and arriving late for training sessions can also have an impact on how they are perceived by the rest of the team and perform as a player.
International players can also experience a kind of reverse culture shock when they come back from their club to play in their national squad. The French sports newspaper l’Equipe recently took the example of the Argentinean player Lionel Messi who they say has played for so long in Spain that he now struggles to adapt the way the Albiceleste play the game!
Hiring young players from foreign and distant countries can be really expensive so ensuring that young champions adapt quickly and efficiently to their new environment is key for football clubs both from a competition and financial perspective. Football clubs should follow in the footsteps of many international firms and provide cross cultural awareness training courses to their players to ensure a smooth adaptation process to their prodigies.