Tamás Hajnal was consciously prepared for his future! In the last few years of his football career, he has been consciously training himself to keep doing what he really loves after retirement.
On the occasion of the European Day of Care project, we talked to Tamás Hajnal, former football player of Ferencváros, as one of its ambassadors. He spent the best years of his active career in Germany and Belgium, and nowadays he is working at the green-white club of Budapest as sports director. The European Day of Care is a pan-European project co-funded by the Erasmus+ Sport Programme of the European Union, an extension of an initiative launched in 2015. Our goal, together with other European multisport clubs, is to highlight the difficulties of transitioning from elite sports to civil life and to share inspirational stories of those who have succeeded.
An interview with Tamás Hajnal
You have started your football career at a young age. When did you start playing sports?
Basically I come from a very sports-centric family, practically since I can go, sports have been a part of my life. My mother mainly loves ball games and my father is a physical education teacher and soccer coach. With him, I was able to try a variety of sports at a very young age in school, yet football has always been a fascinating and important part of my life.
You have had a long and successful career as a football player, what do you remember for the most?
Thinking back to my active years, I would say that I am proud of my whole career. I came from Nyergesújfalu, a small town, and I managed to climb high, thanks to sports. I will never forget when I was 16 when I was introducing myself to the first team of Ferencváros, nor when I was 18 when I signed my first professional contract in Germany. A decisive experience will remain in my first national team match and my title in Germany or even in Fradi.
How did it feel when you suddenly found yourself in civic life after an active career?
Football has had a big impact on my life from a very young age, but I knew that over time, a new chapter in my life would come, and I had to find new challenges, a new goal for myself. I think it is very important that there are people around an athlete who can provide useful advice, but it also matters to start planning for a future in professional sports at a young age.
How do you remember, when did you first start to think about the days after your active career?
Relatively early. Maybe I spent the first training camp with Schalke’s team (Tamás Hajnal was 17 at the time – ed.), When I already recorded what we were doing during the training sessions. It was already in my head that once I was working as a coach, this could beneficial for me. Of course, later on I focused on my career, started earning more seriously around the age of 30, then I also got a UEFA Coach A diploma. Later, I thought I’d rather work in the management, so when I was a football player, I started looking for opportunities to do some courses. Several friends have suggested me to apply for a UEFA Master for International Professionals (UEFA MIP). My application was successful, and I’ve delivered it ever since. In fact, in the last years of my career, I have been intensively working on my future.
How does your present life differ from when you were living your life as a footballer?
Completely different. Football is so special that it can’t be compared to anything else, especially if someone is lucky enough to play at such a high level as I was. I am currently working as a sport director. This job involves more complexity and greater responsibility.
You are currently the Sport Director of Ferencváros, but what other challenges do you have in your mind for your future?
It is a great honor for me to have received the trust from the club, this is a great opportunity and responsibility, and I would like to do my best. I try not only to talk to people in the sport industry, but also to get involved into other areas. I work regularly as a studio expert for live football matches on TV, for example, the decades spent in football provided me the knowledge and background that I think I need to work primarily in this field.
Why did you decide to be ambassador behind the European Day of Care project?
I think it’s important to talk about this because we know how difficult it is for most athletes to find their place in civic life after an active career. We need to be aware that it is possible to start planning for the future even during our sports career.