“My love for Football was always with me throughout this journey”
My journey with sports began with an 11-year-old boy that, very unexpectedly, was invited to join the volleyball middle school team. “I love playing football and futsal, what am I doing playing volleyball?” That question was rapidly answered when we won our local tournament and I really started enjoying the sport that gave me my very first medal. More than that, the volleyball experience showed me that, even in Brazil, there was more sports to be played than football, so I kept trying.
One night after a futsal practice, I came back home and turned the TV on before going to bed and little did I know that this night would change my life forever. The 1999 NBA finals between San Antonio Spurs and New York Knicks were on and everything on that small, almost black and white screen, got me completely hooked on that game. Unfortunately, basketball was almost non-existent in this remote region of Brazil, where I am from, but a group of friends and I started playing around, improvising baskets with trash bins and soon, the group was large enough to have regular practices at the same place where I practiced Futsal.
From that moment on, I was certain of a couple of things in my life. I wanted to become a basketball player, I wanted to work with sports, physical education would be my career, and I wanted to learn that language they were speaking on TV that night, although I knew I could not afford to take classes.
Then, that game gave me everything. I was able to get scholarships to play basketball and study in the best private schools in my city, which gave me an education of quality to be accepted into the Physical Education and Sport Science in a state university. Even without classes, basketball along with movies and music was slowly teaching me the language that I wanted to learn so much. But my love for football was always with me throughout this journey.
July of 2006, I started my path as a Physical Education student and, truth that matters is, I never thought about doing anything else in my life and I was right. Servicing people and helping them to achieve their goals for health or performance brought a great purpose to my life and I felt to be in the right place for me, and it was, indeed. During my school years, I got to travel across the state and country playing for my university and made friendships that will never break or split apart.
In my Senior year, during a sociology class, my professor mentioned a company that was recruiting people to go to the United States during the summer to teach football. Nobody really paid attention or even believed it was a serious thing, but for me, all I could visualize was the 1999 Madison Square Garden and a chance for me to come back to the sport that I have always been passionate about it. I looked up the company, applied for the program, took a bank loan to go to the interviews and training, and by the end of the process, I was offered a contract to work in the United States for 7 weeks in 2011. And that was another life changing moment for me.
Now, I was a part time Sports Trainer and Fitness Professional and a part time Football Coach. After my graduation in December 2011, I started to travel every year to the United States to teach kids and young adults the game I have always loved, and that broken-never-in-class English started to become better and better. In 2014, I received a full year contract for a club in Maryland and from that moment on, I established residency in the United States. 2014 was also the year that I married my best half in Atlanta – GA, where we currently live.
After 7 years as a coach, I was looking forward to complementing my on-field knowledge with the business side of the sport. Searching for programs I came across The FBA and, honestly, it was a pretty easy choice. The professors and the hybrid way of online and in person classes was everything I was looking for. From the moment I started the course I had a mentality, open mind and to get out of my comfort zone. My entire career was delivering fitness services and sports training, I did not know anything about professional club’s finances, or stadium operations, or marketing. But that is what I wanted to learn.
During Soccerex in China I had the opportunity to meet one of our professors, Alfonso Roberes, a very influential man in the industry and rapidly we got along pretty well. During the second module of The FBA master’s program, Alfonso gave lessons on the Sponsorship and Partnership subject. Personally, and professionally, class after class, I became more and more interested in the subject. So, I decided to approach Alfonso and ask if he would take me as an intern in Madrid at his company, Arowana Sports.
After some discussion about logistics and how it would work, Alfonso gave me a yes and I was very pleased with the opportunity to come to Europe and to a city so important in the football universe.
“Throughout the course of my internship, I have been able to be part of projects ranging from new business development and prospecting new clients, to talking to clubs about potential friendly matches”
In the office, we joke that I arrived in the middle of a hurricane. Some partnerships had recently been closed so, in my first two weeks, I was able to be part and collaborate with announcements inside of the Santiago Bernabeu, in which I had the opportunity to shake hands with Emilio Butragueño and Álvaro Arbeloa and see the behind the scene moments during those events. Another great moment was a business trip to Turin, Italy for another announcement at Juventus with the presence of the club’s CEO and the legend, Mauro Camoranesi.
Throughout the course of my internship, I have been able to be part of projects ranging from new business development and prospecting new clients, to talking to clubs about potential friendly matches. I have also been able to see commercial video shootings and magazine interviews for some of the talents of the agency. Alfonso has given me freedom and guidance to build a personal project related to the United States market and we have hopes that this internship is just the beginning of a long-term relationship between Arowana and myself.
Personally, it has been a moment of reflection, personal growth, evaluating past plans and building others for the future. Not even mentioned the opportunity to work in a city that is so rich in terms of culture, art, architecture, history, and certainly football. I have been able to check all the boxes of my objectives traced when I left home and other objectives are being created, which gives me the confirmation that I have made the right choice. Perhaps this can be one more of those life changing moments. Fingers crossed.
Ayer Santos de Souza is a Candidate of The FBA’s Professional Master in Football Business 2nd Edition, expected to graduate in March 2019. He can be contacted via LinkedIn.