By Doug Reed
"A beautiful experience” is how Mathieu Flamini describes diving in the ocean alongside his father as a young child. It left a lasting impression on the former French international, both for good and for bad.
Their trips to the sea included collecting plastic waste that had accumulated on the beaches near his hometown of Marseille. This witnessing of nature's beauty side-by-side with man-made pollution forged a lifelong interest in environmental issues.
Flamini pursued this interest whilst having a professional football career that saw him play for top clubs such as Arsenal and AC Milan. Wherever he went, he would reach out to people in the sustainability field and enhance his knowledge of the latest issues and developments.
Whilst playing in Italy, the former midfielder became aware of a nascent technology that had the potential to replace oil-based products with an organic and biodegradable compound. Excited at its prospects, this led to co-founding GF Biochemcials whilst at the height of his football career at 24 years old.
Rather than hindering his football, he describes this other pursuit as having a positive impact, providing a welcome respite from the relentlessness of elite football. “As a footballer you get home around 2.30pm/3pm so you still have enough time to challenge yourself, to focus on a different passion, to focus on a different subject. For me it was like an escape from the ups and downs of football.”
The once Arsenal Player of the Year recognises the advantages of pursuing other interests whilst playing commenting, “When you’re a top athlete it is easier to meet the people you really want to meet.” He urges players to engage their passions with social media giving them a platform to drive awareness of the areas that they care about.
It also helped him with the transition after retiring from playing, which most players find complicated, becoming CEO of his company that operates in an industry worth billions of dollars.
“The transition from football is not easy because, firstly, you have to reinvent yourself. Secondly, mentally it is not always easy to find something else to do which you have never done. This is why most of the athletes stay in the world of football. They become agents, managers, pundits. This is because it is challenging for someone to reinvent themselves, to find a new purpose, a new mission, to learn everything from scratch.”
Whilst going into business through a more traditional route develops certain areas that former players will need to catch up on, the 39-year-old identifies that players bring unique qualities to the table with many similarities between the two worlds; The winning mentality, dealing with pressure, the desire to compete, flexibility to adapt, the ability to focus and work as part of a team.
Flamini credits working with top coaches and players such as Arsene Wenger and Kaka for helping him develop a mindset he applies daily in his current role as an industry executive.
Having grown his skills through being a business leader, he doesn’t rule out the possibility of going full circle and bringing those enhanced abilities to a leadership role in football in the future.
For now, his focus is on helping the world adopt a more sustainable approach to how it produces everything from batteries to clothing. With the International Energy Agency forecasting that petrochemicals are set to account for over half of future fossil fuel demand, Flamini is demonstrating the positive impact former players can have even in completely unrelated fields if they adopt the right approach as early as possible.
Player4Player is here to support players in identifying what areas they might enjoy getting involved in using our in-house expertise to begin preparations for building businesses and careers that can provide a sustainable and engaging future.
Get in touch now using the contact details on our website and we can have a chat about how we might be able to help.