Culture has become a buzz-word in English football. Triggered by the Suarez ‘negro’ incident the topic grew and was recently compounded by Di Canio’s rant about his right to cultural expression. Discourse has turned towards looking at culture clash in football as a serious issue. Of primary importance for lots of clubs is how to help foreign players settle into life in the UK. Leading experts in relocation training Kwintessential say that Premiership clubs are still in the “dark ages” and are not taking the challenges of cultural integration seriously. As a result, players are underperforming, clubs losing money and the Premiership is getting bad PR.
Research has shown that the inability to adapt to a new host culture is the most common reason for relocation failure. International companies recognise the importance of minimising this risk and invest in relocation programmes that help their top professionals settle into new countries and cultures, as well as provide guidance on how to work effectively with new colleagues. Kwintessential believe that football clubs will continue to suffer poor player performance and bad PR incidences unless they invest in proper relocation training/cultural education that prepare players properly for the culture shock they will face in England.
The problem say Kwintessential may well come down to an industry attitude. While football clubs are now incorporating some human resources management techniques, star players are predominantly still seen in a more traditional way; as examples of athletic genius rather than fallible individuals. When asked about how foreign players settled into Liverpool FC Gerard Houllier replied; “The players’ country is Liverpool Football Club and their language is football”. This romantic and somewhat naïve idea ignores the reality that both individuals, their families and the clubs suffer from inadequate cultural integration.
Managing Director, Neil Payne, has recently published an article outlining some of the facts surrounding culture in football. He argues clubs, agents, the FA and PFA all need to work something out to assist players both settle in plus understand the local culture.
Examples of flops given include Hernan Crespo, a gifted and talented striker, who left Chelsea due to the inability to settle. Crespo found even everyday things difficult because of language and cultural barriers. Speaking of his time at Chelsea he says:
“It was a problem for me to sign a contract for a house. It was even a problem trying to use my phone because I couldn’t explain what I wanted. If the electricity bill came, it was a problem as well. Those things would occupy my mind every day. There was nobody to help me. There was no one to tell me whether to live near Chelsea or the training ground. And when you change your country, don’t speak the language and you feel alone, it’s the worst thing.”
He was not alone. Juan Pablo Angel was shocked as the isolation he and his wife felt in the UK. Angel also grew long hair – but not by choice – he didn’t know how to ask to get it cut. Ian Rush’s bizarre description of his ill-fated spell at Juventus; “It was like playing in a foreign country” shows British players can be equally ill-equipped for the change in lifestyle that playing abroad entails.
“Out of 10 players who move abroad, only one of them will go on to succeed straight away,” claims Vincent Pericard who moved to Portsmouth in 2002. “Yet football fans don’t see the potential problems of life as a footballer. When players arrive they’re expected to turn up, play and perform miracles. But without support, it’s not always easy. I see young foreign players struggling with loneliness or failing to settle in an alien country, not just England.”
Kwintessential are a leading cross cultural communication consultancy that specialise in expatriate relocation and cross-cultural integration training. Their courses equip foreigner moving to the UK with the proper information and guidance to help them settle quicker and more effectively.
Neil Payne continues:
“Britain has a unique culture and a way of life that many people find extremely difficult to settle in to. A lot could be done to help footballers relocate successfully and happily. Before coming to the UK clubs should ideally offer a player and his family with some cultural awareness and language training; as soon as they are settled this should be followed up to address the challenges they are coming across.”
The article is available at ow.ly/8FBDk
More information about Kwintessential
Kwintessential was founded by Neil Payne in 2004. The company has become a leading expert in language and culture training with a network of cultural specialists across the UK. Services include all bespoke cross-cultural education courses, translation, interpreting and international website translation.
Tel: +44 1460 279 900