Football Features

Unexpected careers chosen by footballers after retirement

By Mohamed Moallim

The weirdest careers chosen by footballers after retirement

Published: 14:30, 13 October 2022

Remember when Rio Ferdinand announced plans to enter the world of professional boxing way back in 2018?

This was not a joke. Ferdinand, who enjoyed a near 20-year playing career, winning 81 caps for England in the process, decided he wanted to give the “sweet science” a go at the tender age of 38, only to be rejected a licence by the sport’s governing body four years ago.

Since hanging up his boots in 2015, after representing Queens Park Rangers following a trophy-laden period with Manchester United, he’s forged a successful media career.

But the competitive itch, that engulfs every professional athlete, doesn’t immediately go away. Ferdinand is no different. Despite his failure to crack the world of boxing, many footballers move into another sport once they’ve called time on the beautiful game.

It’s not a common occurrence but in some cases we’ve also seen ex-players put sports behind them entirely and enter a completely new profession.

Here are 15 such examples.

Leon McKenzie and Curtis Woodhouse – Boxing

We start with two references for Ferdinand.

McKenzie and Woodhouse both enjoyed modest football careers. The former, a Crystal Palace youth graduate, saw his career run parallel with Ferdinand’s and once retiring in 2013 moved into boxing.

From those bouts, McKenzie won eight (four via knockout) while losing twice — the last (taking place in 2017) was for the vacant BBBofC Southern Area Super Middleweight Title.

In terms of championships, Woodhouse, formerly of Sheffield United and Birmingham City, fared slightly better. At one point, he was the British light-welterweight champion and ended his 31-fight career with 24 wins (13 coming via knockout) and seven losses.

Tim Wiese – WWE wrestler

Wiese ended a 15-year playing career in 2014 and counts Kaiserslautern and Werder Bremen as his former employees.

After amassing a significant amount of muscle mass, he decided to become a wrestler signing with industry leaders WWE and made his debut in an event held in Munich in November 2016.

Tagging with the Swiss-Irish duo of Cesaro and Sheamus, they bested a trio consisting of Bo Dallas and the Shining Stars (Primo & Epico) in Munich.

Understandably, given his rookie status, Wiese’s time in the ring was limited. However, it was enough to display the work he’s put in during a long period of training.

Wiese executed a series of arm-drags as well as a number of clotheslines and slams. The former goalkeeper – dubbed “the machine” – was given the honour of scoring the winning pinfall after hitting a body splash.

The bout remains his only experience inside a wrestling ring and he ultimately left WWE in 2017.

Arjan de Zeeuw – Detective

De Zeeuw never represented his native Netherlands at international level but nevertheless enjoyed a respectable playing career, mostly in England.

He notably represented Wigan Athletic on two separate occasions, including featuring across their first two Premier League seasons, before leaving for Coventry City — where he spent a year — and then hanging up his boots at Dutch outfit ADO ’20.

You’d then expect such an experienced and knowledgeable defender would give back to the game he loved, but no. De Zeeuw, who owns a medical degree, initially wanted to become a doctor but instead moved into crime-solving.

To be more specific, he became an investigative detective, specialising in forensics, and now works close to where he grew up in Alkmaar, north of Amsterdam, whose club — AZ — he nearly joined as a teenager before opting for university.

Problem-solving was no issue on the field so it’s understandable he’d want to use those skills for the betterment of society.

Royston Drenthe – Rapper

A sense of what could have been. Drenthe, a graduate of Feyenoord’s esteemed academy system, burst onto the scene after playing an instrumental role in the Netherlands winning the 2007 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship.

It earned him a blockbuster move to Real Madrid, but his time there didn’t turn out to be successful, even if he did lift the 2008 La Liga title.

After being deemed surplus to requirements in the Spanish capital, he’d spend time in England, famously with Everton, as well as Russia and Turkey before calling it a day.

You cannot begrudge anyone chasing their passions, and in the case of Drenthe, it’s music.

When announcing his exit from the beautiful game, stating how fed up he became with “all the stuff in the football world”, the Rotterdammer also noted he’s now dedicating himself to rap instead.

Something tells us the likes of J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar have nothing to worry about, though, as Drenthe is now playing football again with Real Murcia in the Spanish third tier.

Daniel Agger – Tattoo Artist

Pep Guardiola once said a lack of tattoos made Andres Iniesta “unattractive to the media”.

Sporting artwork on one’s body is common among footballers. Some more outlandish than others.

One such figure is the former Denmark international centre-back, Daniel Agger, who spent his career exclusively at boyhood club Brondby and Liverpool.

His passion for tattoos were evident whilst he was marshalling his fellow defenders. In fact, he was a qualified tattoo artist while representing the Reds, which means his focus wasn’t solely on threading a pass through the eye of a needle.

He couldn’t resist the pull of football, though, and he has since returned to the game to manage HB Koge in the Danish 1st Division.

Clive Allen – American Football

Very few have signed for Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea.

Although he never played a competitive match for the Gunners, on that list is Clive Allen, and there’s an even smaller list of those who swapped the round ball for the oval-shaped football.

In this instance, we’re not talking about rugby, but American football, or gridiron if you will.

Allen never quite made it to the NFL but did briefly play for the London Monarchs in their European division (which existed between 1991 and 2007) as a specialist goal-kicker.

Knut Anders Fostervold – Cycling

Fostervold, who enjoyed an 11-year career in his native Norway, relocated to England in 2000 — albeit on loan — to play for Grimsby Town before returning to Molde FK. He subsequently retired due to injury.

It wouldn’t be long before he returned to competitive sports, but no longer chasing a ball, instead riding on a bicycle.

After winning a bronze medal in the Norwegian national time-trial championships in 2005, he’d win another in 2006 before claiming a silver the following year.

At international level, Fostervold represented Norway at the 2006 and 2007 world championship time trials, finishing 43rd and 51st respectively.

Tomas Brolin and Thomas Gravesen – Poker player

It’s not strange to see one’s hobby become their full-time profession.

Brolin and Gravesen are proof of that. The former has been active in the World Series of Poker since 2006.

Gravesen, meanwhile, decided to invest his earnings in becoming a professional poker player in Las Vegas.

Ken Monkou – Pancake chef

In 1989, Ken Monkou became the first player from outside the Commonwealth of Nations to join Chelsea since 1982.

The former Feyenoord central defender enjoyed a successful stint in England with the Blues and Southampton before turning up for Huddersfield Town where he announced his retirement.

Since returning to the Netherlands, he opened a pannekoek house in the Dutch city of Delft and is now actively involved in Dutch media, as well as on Chelsea TV.

Fabien Barthez – Motorsport

A former World Cup winner, Fabien Barthez was known for his speed off the line.

So, naturally, the ex-goalkeeper decided to dabble in the world of motorsport.

Not quite Formula One, think more endurance racing, the Frenchman has been active in the 24 Hours of Le Mans since 2014.

His results are as follows: 9th (2014), 8th (2016) and DNF (2017).

Not bad.

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Jose Manuel Pinto – Zumba teacher

The Barcelona cult hero may have spent most of his Camp Nou career sitting on the bench but he never was one for doing so quietly, which may explain his latest career move.

The former goalkeeper has traded diving for dancing and can now be found leading Zumba classes to his enthusiastic and well-choreographed students.

Since hanging up his gloves, the 45-year-old has accelerated his music career, with two of his soundtracks featuring in Hollywood blockbusters. 

His 2017 track, La Habana, featured in The Fate of the Furious and even reached the top 10 of the Billboard charts.

But, away from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and Champions League nights, the Spaniard can now be found brandishing a skipping rope and showcasing his silky dance moves in a modest gymnasium. 

Grant Holt – Wrestler

‘The Incredible Holt!’ Grant enjoyed a Cinderella story career as a footballer, working his way up from fourth tier to become a Premier League player where, in 2011/12 he notched 15 goals, including at Anfield, the Emirates and Stamford Bridge. It’s safe to say he knew where the back of the net was.

Upon calling time on his career in 2018, Holt followed in the footsteps of Wiese to enter the ring, signing a professional contract with the World Association of Wrestling in 2018. He came out on top in his first flight, a 40-man Royal Rumble which won him the Crusher Mason Memorial Trophy.

All told, Holt fought three times, and went out with a perfect record. He returned briefly to play for Wroxham at non-league level and is now a first-team scout for West Ham under David Moyes. As far as career trajectories go, his is one as unconventional as they come.

Adebayo Akinfenwa – Wrestler

He never was going to fade into obscurity, was he? Adebayo Akinfenwa has become a household name in recent years, owing largely to his bubbly on-screen personality and unique playing style. And it’s that latter point which perhaps explains his decision to emulate the likes of Holt and Wiese.

Built like a rugby prop, Akinfenwa has spent years sculpting his hulking physique in the gym, and he will now be stretching a different set of sinews. On the pitch he was heavyweight with a featherweight’s touch of the ball, now he can channel his inner Cena to wreak havoc with his bulging biceps.

Having bowed out in the summer, and often carrying the tag as football’s strongest player during the latter stages of his career, Akinfenwa will accompnay British wrestler and former boxing Olympian Anthony Ogogo in the ring for his fight with Mailk at PROGRESS Wrestling later this month.