While out in my garage doing a weights session to get over my latest footballing injury (it’s official, I now have two dodgy knees) I heard an interesting article on Radio 5 live. A 23 year old lad called Arton Baleci was doing an experiment to see if he can turn himself (a self confessed ‘average’ footballer) into a professional footballer good enough to play in the English Premier league (arguably the best league in the world).
Being a professional footballer is the dream of many a young lad but as anybody who’s played football to a decent level knows, the difference between someone who can stand out at Sunday league or top amateur level and a professional who plays in the Conference (the lowest of the professional leagues) can be vast.
My friend Stu used to play semi-pro and when he was a youngster he went to an England schoolboys training camp (or something like that). He said some of the kids there were amazingly talented and he felt they were a level up from himself (he’s modest though so I take it with a pinch of salt). And yet how many of these kids made it in the game, even in the lower leagues? Not one. To play in the Premier league which is filled with world class players you can’t just be a decent footballer, you have to be a great footballer.
So how can a 23 year old recent graduate think he’s got a chance of going from being out of breath running for a bus, having not played competitive football in years to being able to get a pro contract for a team in the top football league in the world in a year? Well, perhaps not surprisingly, he’s got a plan.
He’s surrounding himself with top coaches so that he can get himself to the standard of fitness required of a professional footballer (which at 23 and looking at his physique I don’t think will be a problem so long as he keeps his determination). He’ll be using the latest scientific techniques to speed up his ability to learn the footballing skills he’ll need to make it as a player. He’ll be analysing the attributes of what makes a top player and using the latest techniques (both physical and psychological) to get into the right mindset and make those attributes his own. He’ll be using the latest sports science combined with his determination to see if it’s possible. He’s the guinea pig in his own experiment to see how much we understand what “that something special” is that separates Wayne Rooney from his classmates at school and see if it’s possible to learn how to do what came naturally to him.
It’s definitely possible to make a good player into a great player through the right type of training and sheer hard work over many years as real-life lower league professional footballer – Gavin Strachan – talks about here. But to take a non-professional footballer right to the top in such a short space of time sounds like a bridge too far. Had he set his target on just getting a professional contract then I’d say he’s got a pretty good chance since more often than not it’s the mental strength and determination that separates the lads who get dropped by clubs from those who get pro contracts. But the Premier league, I suspect, will be beyond him in such a short space of time.
Having said that, he’d never get the publicity if he wasn’t setting his sights high and frankly I’d love to be proven wrong. Not only would it give hope to a lot of kids who’ve not made it and want a second chance, but it could take football and other sports to a higher level in the future. Just imagine what the training techniques that can take a regular guy to the top could do for someone with natural talent and exceptional pace as a result of lucky genetics!
Anyway, I’ll certainly be following his progress over the coming year and if like me you wish you’d been the next Paul Scholes then you should too. He’s documenting his journey at The Beautiful Aim and has a YouTube channel too. Good luck Arton! 🙂
Update (3rd August 2012): Well looking at the fact that the site is now dead I’d say that his mission failed. Perhaps not surprising given how hard it is to make it as a professional footballer and to make it late to the party requires something special. Still, good to have seen him give it a try – nothing ventured, nothing gained!