Football Features

Famous footballers who worked jobs you didn’t expect

By Sam Long

Famous footballers who worked jobs you didn't expect

Published: 17:34, 4 January 2021

Some footballers break the mould and follow unconventional career paths.

After all, there are only so many punditry roles within the media.

But retirement is just one side of the story. Some modern-day professionals still have to juggle two jobs at once, while others had humble beginnings before they hit the big time. It’s important to have something to fall back on, as my teacher used to say.

Whether before, during or after their careers, the players we worship on a Saturday afternoon’s bread and butter is sometimes earned away from the beautiful game.

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So, here’s Squawka’s pick of footballers that you probably didn’t know could turn their hand to a field that isn’t covered in grass and painted with white lines.

1. Ben Burgess: Teacher

The former Blackpool and Hull City striker chucked it in at Tranmere Rovers to become a teacher. He sees things differently to many and believes footballers are in possession of skills they do not receive credit for.

He told the BBC: “Determination, leadership skills, ability to work in a team, performance under pressure, focus and adaptability… just some of the unique skills we all possess that are transferable to the outside world. What employer would not want an employee with those credentials on their CV?”

If you thought marking homework doesn’t compare with performing in front of a full house, Burgess has got news for you.

“Nothing quite compares to scoring a goal,” he added. “But watching a child finally grasp what you’ve spent hours teaching them, or to watch a boy who hates reading pick up a book and talk passionately about it, comes pretty close.”

2. Tim Wiese: Professional wrestler

Goalkeeper Wiese collected six caps for Germany during his career and also took in spells at Kaiserslautern, Werder Bremen and Hoffenheim. However, he is virtually unrecognisable these days after signing up for a role with the WWE.

The 38-year-old made his professional wrestling debut in his native Germany in 2016, appearing at a WWE live event in Munich. ‘The Machine’ marked his debut appearance in the ring with a victory alongside partners Cesaro and Sheamus. Wiese’s WWE career didn’t extend much further than his debut, later returning to amateur football.

3. Arjan de Zeeuw: Detective

The former Wigan Athletic centre back, who famously resisted the temptation to retaliate after he was spat on by El-Hadji Diouf, is now putting people behind bars.

That’s right, this is a centre-back… that solves crime.

4. Papiss Cisse: Ambulance driver

We’re not sure why Cisse was given such a job at the age of 15, but it certainly puts things into perspective. He even left school to go full-time until he made a name for himself on the pitch.

“I saw people die in the past when I was 15 and driving the ambulance,” the Senegal international told reporters in 2013.

“I was only 15, which is very young, and that was why I stopped going to school because I had this job.

“Some times I had a little money which I gave to my parents. It was hard for me, it was very difficult for me because I was so young. My first time in the job I saw someone die and I cried but I became strong.”

5. Grafite: Bin liner salesman

Probably the least glamorous form of employment on our list comes from Brazilian forward Grafite, top-scorer (28 goals in 25 apps) for Wolfsburg’s 2008/09 Bundesliga-winning side.

“It wasn’t that unusual,” he explained. “People still sell bin liners door-to-door. I had to earn money, and it was a job. I’ve never forgotten that time, and I learned a lot of positive things.”

6. Nigel de Jong: Car dealership

We all know footballers like their cars. Occasionally, a little too much given they are acquired for sums of money some struggle to earn in their entire working lives. However, the Dutch midfielder has used his love of all things on four wheels to enter into a lucrative car dealership operating in Europe and the Middle East. Smart move, Nige.

His incredible showroom boasts Lamborghini Aventadors, Maseratis and Ferraris among other illustrious car brands.

7. Craig Noone: Roofer

The Cardiff City winger once tiled Steven Gerrard’s house, five years before facing the Liverpool skipper in the Premier League. That’s quite a turnaround.

“I did the gym and games room at Steven Gerrard’s, it was a big extension on the house,” said Noone when Cardiff signed him in 2012.

“I used to get a can of coke and a sausage roll off Alex (Curran, Gerrard’s wife). So that was my tip!

“When you were working there you’d see his lifestyle – go to training at 9AM and come home at 1.30PM or 2PM while I was slogging it out. And you’d be thinking, ‘I need to do that one day’.

“I didn’t want to be a roofer for the rest of my life. I always knew I wanted to be a footballer and I was going to work as hard as I could to achieve it.”

8. Eric Cantona, Vinnie Jones and John Carew: Actors

OK, this one’s a bit of a push. Does this really class as acting? Jones (of Lock, Stock and Smoking Barrels and Mean Machine) was, let’s say, typecast. Likewise, Cantona pretty much plays himself and is yet to fully convince. Although I have been drinking a lot of Kronenbourg recently…

More recently, former Aston Villa striker John Carew has turned his hand to acting, featuring in a couple of horror movies and Disney’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.

9. Charlie Austin: Bricklayer

Austin is one of two on this list many football fans will already be aware of.

The centre-forward may have banged in the goals for the likes of Swindon Town, Burnley, QPR, Southampton and West Brom in English football’s top two tiers, but things weren’t always so rosy for the former bricklayer.

“One day, when I was 17, I was working in a place called Overton,” he told the Guardian. “By 2pm, we were drenched through and it felt like I had a glass back. I couldn’t bend it and I was covered in mud. If I ever get fed up for one minute with football, I’ll think back to that day and remember I’ve got the best life in the world now.”

10. Mat Mitchel-King: Rio Ferdinand body double

The non-league and lower league journeyman has not enjoyed the most sparkling career, but he’s got one hell of a claim to fame. While playing as a semi-pro at Histon, he would be the stand-in model for the QPR defender and featured in Nike commercials when Ferdinand was too busy.

“People get confused and think you have to look exactly the same,” he told BBC Sport. “You don’t. I did all the stuff from a distance and they filmed Rio for the close-up stuff. If there is a six-day shoot lasting 12 hours a day, there’s no way a player can be there that long. So they bring in body doubles who can be captured on camera from distance.

“I’ve met Rio. When I played for Crewe, I lived in Cheshire and would see him out and about. He’d always acknowledge me.

“You have to be professional on set. You don’t ask them for autographs or selfies. It’s a strict no-no.”

11. Rickie Lambert: Beetroot packer

You may be shocked to learn this, but the lids on top of beetroot jars do not screw themselves on.

Instead, such a job once fell to former England international Rickie Lambert. The striker is proof that talent capable of playing at the highest level can be found in the lower reaches of the Football League.

Mind you, he’s since hung up his boots after spells at Liverpool, Southampton and West Brom, so could probably sneak a couple of shifts at the factory back into his schedule.

12. Daniel Agger: Tattoo artist

You would never have guessed this one, would you?

While some players focus their efforts on learning how to thread a pass through the eye of a needle, the Dane has been figuring out how he can push them into people in the name of body art.

13. Yaya Sanogo: Postman

Last but no means least is former Arsenal striker Sanogo, who once revealed: “I told my mum that because of my injuries I wanted to quit. I told her that I was ready to give up and go and work in the post office.”

It’s safe to say Sanogo wasn’t quite able to deliver at the Emirates. He was eventually couriered to Toulouse in 2017, but not before enjoying a couple of moments that will have made him glad he didn’t give up on his footballing career early. He scored four goals as France won the U20 World Cup in 2013, was nominated for the Golden Boy award, made a handful of appearances the following year in Arsenal’s FA Cup-winning campaign and scored a Champions League goal against Borussia Dortmund the following November.