Careers in Football is delighted to welcome Seth Burkett as our writer/editor. Here is his first piece about his journey in and after football.
A Wednesday evening in 2006. My whole life working up to this point. I enter the manager’s office. We’ve been called into the stadium for the meeting so I know it’s important. This next fifteen minutes could define the rest of my life.
I can tell it’s not going to be good news as soon as I enter. There’s something about the way the manager looks as me. I take a seat, my parents waiting outside. The pleasantries are brief. Then he tells me.
“We don’t think you’re going to make it as a professional footballer at Peterborough United. Therefore we won’t be offering you a scholarship.”
It’s the news that I’m expecting. That doesn’t make it any easier.
For weeks afterwards I hate Peterborough United and everything to do with them. It’s as if my very identity has been removed. At school I’ve always been known as Seth the footballer. But now I’m just Seth.
An action plan is soon made. I’ll join my local semi-professional side, Stamford AFC. I’ll work hard at school and go to university. I’ll still be able to play a decent level of football there, and if I make it to Loughborough – my first choice – I’ll be at the best sporting university in the world.
Suddenly there’s a new focus. Yet that’s not the only focus.
I’ve always been a reader. I’m not too fussy. Any book will do. But recently I’ve been reading lots of football autobiographies. Two in particular have caught my attention: Peter Crouch’s and Vinnie Jones. Not necessarily because of the writing, but because of the content. Both Peter and Vinnie played football abroad.
Football abroad. That sounds amazing.
I put together a CV and send it to as many clubs as I can find. From Portugal to Estonia, no club is too random.
The harder I try, the luckier I get. A scout begins to watch our matches from Stamford. He’s Brazilian and has an opportunity for the team: there’s a tournament happening in Brazil, would we like to enter?
We do, and whilst out in Brazil the scout arranges for me to train with a local side. A Brazilian coach likes what he sees. An offer is made. Slightly dazed, I agree. It’s just over two years since being released, yet not I’m going to be a professional footballer. In Brazil.
League: Campeonato Matogrossense
Stadium: Estadio Egidio Jose Preima
Famous Players: Capone (UEFA Super Cup winner with Galatasaray)
Brazil is incredible. Yet Brazil is also the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to do. There’s a lot of downtime. I attempt to learn Portuguese, but most importantly I keep a diary.
That diary will come to be the defining part of my life.
After a season in Brazil I return to England. Specifically, I return to Loughborough. After one unsuccessful application, I successfully reapply to study Sports Science and English as a joint honours degree. I have a feeling the offer may have been helped by my publicity from Brazil.
University is the most fun I’ve ever had. I play in the football teams and also start to play futsal. I even get called up for the England u21 squad. Surprisingly, I begin to enjoy studying English more than Sport Science. So much so that I take a Masters degree in it. The more I read, the more I think I should attempt to write something of my own.
It takes three attempts to get my first book published. Throughout, my lecturers help me to edit and improve my proposal and manuscript. When The Boy in Brazil is eventually released it is shortlisted for the Football Book of the Year at the BSB Awards.
The book helps me take the next step after university. So does the network that I’ve built up at Loughborough. Together, they combine to land me a job in social media, working on Nike Football for advertising agency AKQA. At the same time, I continue to write and play futsal.
It proves a powerful combination. All three areas help each other. After a coach in Sri Lanka read my first book, he offered me a professional contract for his team. Which then led to another book, my eleventh to date: Titans of the Teardrop Isle.
Over the years, I’ve worked with elite athletes in my advertising roles, I’ve written books for footballers and YouTubers. And I’ve even begun working with Careers in Football.
To anyone who has been released: this does not have to be the end of your journey in football. One club’s opinion is not a fact. There are other opportunities out there if you are willing to look: both on and off the pitch.
Seek out interesting avenues, say yes to anything that comes your way (you can always stop if you don’t enjoy it) and make the most of the people around you while continuing to develop yourself.
Being released doesn’t have to be the end. It can be a bright new start.
Seth with his book "Titans of the Teardrop Island" which is about his time playing football in Sri Lanka. This is available on Amazon.