On the ball: Footballers today have too much time and money, says Chuck Martini
January 2, 2018 | 6:17 PM
by Gautam Viswanathan
People today think footballers have always earned big money, but that’s only been the case very recently.

A few years ago, when Cameroon’s legendary striker made a big-money move to nouveau-riche Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala after several successful years at Inter Milan and Barcelona, he was to become the world’s highest-paid player at that time, earning north of £350,000 (OMR180,000) a week. That amounts to about £36 (OMR18) a minute.

That, however, was six years ago. Brazilian sensation Neymar shattered the transfer window when he moved from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, for a sensational 200 million Euros. That’s about OMR 91 million, and will see him earn an eye-watering £537,000 a game. That’s about OMR277,000 a match, or OMR27 (£53) a minute.

But footballers weren’t always so awash with money. Playing for even an ordinary English Premier League side will net you a decent £70,000 to £100,000 a week, but when Chuck Martini was turning out for the likes of Leicester City and Wycombe Wanderers, he remembers having to struggle to earn from football.

Chuck Martini is now head coach at the Muscat Football Academy in Oman, and was looking back on his time as a professional footballer, when he had to fight hard to make a decent living from the sport.

“When I was playing professional football, I remember earning around £2,000 a week,” he recalled, in a recent interview with Times of Oman. “People today think footballers have always earned big money, but that’s only been the case very recently. I remember having to fight for my place in the team week in, week out, and if I didn’t put my hardest into training every day, you could be damn sure there was someone else waiting to take my place.

“Of course, we all want to be successful, but money was a big factor for us wanting to do our best,” added Martini, who played professional football as a goalkeeper, also turning out for clubs such as AFC Wimbledon and Scottish side St. Mirren. “If we won that game and we were in the team, we’d get a win bonus of about £500, and that may not seem like big money now, but to us, it meant saving a little bit more because we could pay our bills with that money.”

Martini also represented the land of his birth, Morocco, at the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States, having collected four caps for his nation, before going on to play football in the short-lived Major Indoor League Soccer competition for the Dallas Sidekicks.

“These days, you have all of these imported cars like Lamborghinis and Ferraris and Maseratis being driven by so many footballers, but back then, we’d be happy if we had a little car that was enough to do the shopping in and then go to training,” revealed Martini, who was also goalkeeping coach at the AFC Wimbledon academy. “If someone drove a BMW or a Volkswagen, he was considered to be a big guy. I know it sounds strange, but that was simply what our life was like back then.

“Players are often rested these days, but we would hate being dropped from the team, because it meant you could lose your place and someone else was going to get your bonus,” he added. “If you were dropped, it was because you were out of form, or because you were injured, so you had to be ready to play 50 or 60 games a season. If you didn’t like it, tough luck, because you had to find somewhere else to play.”

Training sessions only lasted for a few hours, so footballers had plenty of time to kill. Many of them, unfortunately, chose to fritter away their time, and with the explosion of cash the sport has seen, that has only exacerbated the off-field problems they face.

“There’s just too much money in the game now,” said Martini, who also managed non-league sides Waltham and Hersham FC, as well as Godalming Town. “We’d come in to train at about nine or 10am, and then we’d finish up by about noon. That was when many of the establishments in England would open, so many footballers would spend all day there, and then their friends would come and they’d waste all their time in them.

“Now, with the arrival of sports science, footballers know the importance of staying healthy, but back then, that concept really wasn’t there, and they were bored and had a lot of money,” he said.

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