After finishing a glittering soccer career many players chose a life in coaching or punditry.
Former Dynamo Kiev, AC Milan and Chelsea striker Andriy Shevchenko has taken a completely different route by switching the soccer pitch for the fairways and greens of the golf course.
Shevchenko, 36, only retired from soccer last year after playing in Euro 2012 for the Ukrainian national team.
But the star striker who scored 321 goals in 648 career games has now managed to get his handicap down to two and competed as an amateur in the European Challenge Tour on Thursday at the Kharkov Superior Cup in Ukraine.
However it was a day to forget on his golfing debut, as Shevchenko hit a 12-over par 84 to leave suggestions that maybe he should have gone into coaching or punditry after playing soccer professionally for almost 20 years.
Of course Shevchenko probably know he has no chance of becoming a top professional golfer but after many years as a soccer payer, he would most probably spend his afternoons and days off on the golf course. Those jokes about PL players spending all their time on the course away from the training ground are mostly fiction.
Many Premier League players are close to scratch golfers, with the likes of Manchester City James Milner and England striker Wayne Rooney said to be very handy with a golf club.
The highlight of “Sheva’s” round was a birdie on a 132-yard par 3 but plenty of bogies put him 20 shots off the lead heading into the weekend.
It will be a miracle if Shevchenko somehow makes the cut, however you have to applaud his determination to try and become a professional golfer after excelling at the highest level of soccer for such a long period of time.
But this got me thinking about which other professional athletes have switched sports in the past. Here’s a quick list I devised:
Michael Jordan, Basketball to Baseball (then back to Basketball)
Bruce Arena, US national Soccer team to US national Lacrosse team
Jackie Robinson, Ran track and played Football before switching to Baseball
Tony Gonzalez, played Basketball and Football at UC Berkley before joining the NFL
And I’m sure there are plenty of others I’m missing. But can athletes really switch between sports and become successful or will Shevchenko’s golf career be a flash in the pan?
“What John offers is a link with the fans and an appreciation of the young players who he would want to help come through. He’s Mr Chelsea. Those are the sorts of players you need at the club. Without telling the club what to do, I think Chelsea are looking to change the old nucleus we had, what with myself, Ashley [Cole], Didier [Drogba] and Petr [Cech] gone, John’s almost the last one standing. But I don’t think he’s going to be an issue with that – he’ll even help the transition with helping the younger players.”
Even given Terry’s dicey at times off-field reputation, there’s merit to that story (After all, you can’t be okay with Ryan Giggs guiding the youth of Manchester and opposed to Terry leading at the Bridge).
As for MLS, plenty of England’s old guard is here already. From the 2010 World Cup roster alone, Ashley Cole and Steven Gerrard are in L.A., Lampard’s in New York City, and Shaun Wright-Phillips is with RBNY. That’s already half the number of U.S. players in MLS who played in the 2010 tournament.
“We’ve got Billy who has a lot of experience, and obviously we’ve got DeAndre, who has very little experience at this level.
“DeAndre has a lot of qualities, but without that experience, it’s a massive ask to perform at the consistent level that you need to at this stage of the season, particularly with the pressure we’re all under.”
You have to love that following his train of thought would continue with, “but we don’t have any better options, so let’s see what happens!” It’s not quite Guus Hiddink saying of Chelsea youth like Matt Miazga, “We have no fear of bringing youngsters in“, but Allardyce is right in saying the relegation plight is a different pressure than Chelsea’s much safer spot.
While Gary Cahill and John Terry have the familiar names of the bunch, Hiddink won’t limit himself to veteran replacements. Certainly he could slide Cesar Azpilicueta inside, though that would sacrifice about a half-foot, and Newcastle likes to use big striker Aleksandar Mitrovic.
“I really like it, it is a higher level, the ball moves much faster but yeah, it is good. All the guys are very welcoming and I am really enjoying it.
“My game is definitely built on winning aerial challenges and tackles. As a centre-back you have to have an aerial presence and win a lot of headers, and my job is to win duels and not let opponents score, so every time I try to get a good tackle in and make my opponent know that I am there and it is not going to be an easy time trying to go by me.”
The ball moves much faster, and we’re hoping to see Miazga move with it sooner rather than later. Will it be this weekend.