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Retirement planning among South African professional soccer players: A qualitative study of players’ perceptions
An inevitable reality that all athletes have to face is retirement from competition and this experience can lead an acute sense of loss in the athlete. Professional soccer players are no exception. While retirement traditionally occurs for most non-athletes after a long working career that allows them to plan and anticipate the likely demands and challenges resulting from retirement, athletes' retirement from sport can be precipitated without warning due to a number of factors which include deselection or injury. The professional football industry has always been marked by a competitive labour market, the limited tenure of contracts, the constant surplus of talented players, vulnerability to injury and ageing. The current study adopted a qualitative approach using in-depth interviews to examine the perceptions and attitudes of professional soccer players in the South African Premier Soccer League (PSL) towards retirement . Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted and recorded with 12 professional soccer players from four PSL clubs (namely, Jomo Cosmos; Platinum Stars; Moroka Swallows and Kaizer Chiefs). An analysis of the interview transcripts yielded four underlying themes, namely support from the soccer agent and/or club, career planning after retirement from soccer, attitude towards retirement related to various socio-demographic factors and managing finances by making individual financial decisions. The results suggested that professional soccer players do not take retirement planning seriously and often confuse retirement planning with savings and investments. It is therefore important for soccer clubs and agents to assist professional soccer players in career counselling to be both mentally and financially prepared for retirement. Recommendations arising from the findings are made.