A Visionary is described as a person who, ‘thinks about or plans the future with imagination or wisdom.’ If that is the case, then Bournemouth’s Emiliano Marcondes is very much a visionary.
He is a man who Cruyff turns the conventional portrayal of a football player and sidesteps all of its stereotypes with skill and grace. He is a breath of fresh air and an antidote to the negativity that often surrounds the beautiful game.
With the green grass below his feet, Emiliano has the ability to conduct the team to the beat of his own rhythm. A metronome, moving here and there, discovering pockets of space, and passes that you didn’t know existed. An artist blessed with the ability to paint his identity across the pitch.
His engine is constantly running, and working hard, driven by an almost unyielding, relentless energy and passion to succeed. When the full-time whistle blows that is not where Emiliano’s work ends though. If anything, it’s when it just starts.
You see, the Dane, is not your ordinary football player. Beyond the pitch, he has spent the last few years working tirelessly for The Right to Dream Academy, mentoring and coaching young players across Denmark, Egypt and Ghana. He launched The Shirts For Change campaign, raising over £14,000 for El Cambio, the charitable football academy based in Uganda, the first of its kind in East Africa.
He was also named as an ambassador for BADU, an organisation that offers unparalleled support to families, schools and local systems that are designed to support the lives of all generations. For all of this outstanding dedication to causes off the pitch, Emiliano was named the PFA Community Champion in 2021/2022.
“When I was younger, I had a player visiting my youth club, and he did some autographs and we did a penalty shootout where he was giving away his match football shirt,” Emiliano explains. “Of course, we were crazy, all the kids. And I ended up winning the shirt, and I was very happy and I was wearing the shirt for weeks.
“At that moment, I understood that the player came to us and inspired us to feel closer to our dream. And then I remember thinking, if one day I become a footballer, I want to be like him. If I could give that feeling I got that day, to be closer to my dream and to feel the joy of winning something that will be even better, or as good as scoring a goal. From that moment, I was working hard. And I was feeling motivated to inspire the next generation.”
Emiliano’s experiences off the pitch have changed him as a person and have inspired him to launch his own business, Visionary. It is an incredibly exciting concept and one that has the genuine ability to change and shape the lives of football players and athletes.
Visionary has the goal to inspire, support, and empower football players to continue to chase their dreams and recognise their passions and find their purpose beyond the pitch, as well educating players on the power of their platform.
“It’s vital that players recognise the importance of being more than an athlete and having different passions and purposes in life besides football and giving back to their communities,” says Emiliano. “I’ve come to realise that being a visionary athlete means exploring other interests and hobbies that ignite our souls. It’s about finding balance and nurturing our minds, bodies, and spirits.”
Through his own difficult experiences, Emiliano has learned the importance of building your own character and identity. He developed this mentality during his time at Brentford when he suffered a major injury setback, and at times found himself down and depressed. He would question himself constantly, asking if he wasn’t a footballer, then what was he? When he wasn’t on the pitch, who was he really as a person? Where was his identity without football?
It was a serious time of reflection and one that he needed to have to stop him from going down a dark path. A path where so many footballers find themselves. It was that time that he took to learn who he was, that has led him to where he is today. A place where he feels energised by life and where his mindset is not clouded by uncertainty.
The former FC Nordsjælland and Brentford man is currently battling his way back to full fitness at Bournemouth after undergoing surgery on his foot. There is a burning desire within him to get back to full fitness and achieve all his ambitions on the field.
For Emiliano, football is still his number one love. That will never change. His mindset is dedicated to fulfilling his dreams on the pitch and he is aware of the importance of working hard, but as he explains throughout our conversation, with eloquence and clarity, that doesn’t mean you can’t have other interests away from football. It doesn’t undermine your love, dedication and desire for the game, and it sure is hell isn’t a weakness when you take to the pitch.
“As part of Visionary, we have been delivering presentations across Super League teams in Denmark, and The Right to Dream Academy, What we are trying to do is educate players and instil into them the importance of thinking about life beyond football.
“Whilst being injured I have tried to use my time in a meaningful way, doing things that bring me joy. Recently I had an incredible experience of visiting Bournemouth’s Academy and sharing my insights on being more than just a player.
“During my presentation and workshop, I emphasised the importance of having other passions outside of sports. It’s so easy to get caught up in the grind and solely focus on becoming the best player we can be. But there is so much more to life than that.
“One of the highlights of the workshops was identifying personal brands and how to brand ourselves better. It is essential to understand how we want to be perceived and how to effectively communicate our unique qualities and values.
“I’ve tried to see my injury as an opportunity to grow in different areas and discover new passions. To make the most of a difficult period, try to embrace the journey and continue to learn and evolve both on and off the pitch.”
Emiliano is using his platform to tell others what it means to be a professional footballer, but also the importance of being more than just a footballer, and how exploring other passions outside of football can help you grow as a player and as a person. Through his work, he is hoping to make a positive impact on the athletes of the future.
In this country, the media and fans often see a player’s desire to do work off the pitch, as a negative. they believe their sole focus should be the club and only the club. Marcus Rashford in particular came in for a great deal of criticism for his incredible endeavours off the pitch. Emiliano believes this way of thinking needs to be altered and that finding a passion off the pitch can help a player on it.
“We want players to have this mindset while they are still playing, and to have an identity beyond the pitch. For me, this can actually help develop your mental strength, and give you more confidence when you’re playing. If you’re happy and secure off the pitch, it can translate onto the pitch. You need to be secure in who you are as a person, if things are not going as you dream of on the pitch.
Emiliano feels that football clubs also need to do more to facilitate the education of players’ lives outside of football. “It is important to make players aware that they can have an education that is involved with a career in football. I think a lot of players think of education as being uninteresting, and that it’s all about being in front of a teacher, and almost feeling like you’re back in school. It doesn’t have to be like that.
“Education can be much more interesting, than that. You can look at how sponsorship works and how a football club operates. There are so many things within football, qualities that we as football players have, that other people do not necessarily possess. Just identifying these and knowing what you are good at, can help you within football.”
The name Emiliano Marcondes roughly translates to ‘Eager great speaker,’ and that description could not be more apt for a man who throughout our conversation speaks with enthusiasm, passion, and with a genuine desire and vision on how he can help to change lives.
Throughout our time together Emiliano tells us of his plans for Visionary, how finding an identity away from football saved him from depression, what it is that inspires him and why the fire to fulfil all his ambitions in football still burns brighter than ever.
“I’ve come to realise that being a visionary athlete means exploring other interests and hobbies that ignite our souls. It’s about finding balance and nurturing our minds, bodies, and spirits.”
– Emiliano Marcondes
I became more aware of a life outside of football
My first injury was at 16 years old. I was out for nine months. And I remember my doctor at that time, said, “You’re not going to play top football professionally If you don’t have surgery.” I decided not to have the surgery because there was another player who had just had the same surgery and he never played again.
So for me, that was my dream crushed. And in those nine months, I was starting to feel insecure and unsure of whether or not I was going to make it as a footballer. I began to question who I was as a person. If I couldn’t play football, who was I? Who was I really when I was in the gym and who was I when I got home at night at home. I then started finding other things that could give me joy when I wasn’t playing football.
It was not something that I did consciously, and I think as I grew older, I became more aware of a life outside of football. Something that I saw in other players when they were injured was this frustration and you could see just how down and depressed it could make them.
It is something that I especially saw when I came to Brentford when I was 22. Players would get injured and their mood and energy would be low, and some would look or smell drunk. It was like they had lost some part of their identity. They would think ‘If I don’t have football, what am I? If I’m not a footballer, who am I?
Some of the players I played with would end up in the B Team because they were showing a bad attitude. It was then, that I got injured again. And I began to feel the way I did when I was younger. That feeling of frustration. It was the first time I had felt that feeling as an adult – that depression and identity crisis.
I was living in London and I felt very lonely. I remember sitting in my apartment and was like, ‘What am I going to do for three months until I can play again?’ Every day was just a long, long, long day. I would look out of my window and see so many people and I felt so lonely.
I realised that I needed help and I began speaking to our mental coach. We also had our sleep coach at Brentford and she really helped me. I was not sleeping well at all, and she told me it was a result of not working my body and that I wasn’t working my mind. She told me, that I ‘Had to try to be passionate and interested in other things.’ I knew I had these things in me, as I was already investing in my friend’s clothing line, and I was interested in several things. And she said, ‘Seek some of that in your daily life.’
It was then that I started to draw for an hour before bed. I would draw and design my own tattoos, which I now have on my arm today. It was something that I was passionate about and there is something about tattoos which I find creative.
Then I start to draw my summer house that I was in the process of building. I’ve always been interested in architecture and why things are built in a certain way, and that helped me a lot. At that time, all of this was only for me to sleep better. And that was how it started. That is when I truly began to understand the importance of finding purpose off the pitch.
You can often pick up on signals and notice when other players around you are struggling, and I would think that they needed to know what I have done to make it better, and not seek the easy way of drinking or gambling to get that kick you get from being on the pitch.
As I’ve got older, I’ve moulded this mindset that ‘I’m actually more than just a footballer,’ which makes me comfortable in other situations in daily life. It has helped me to grow as a person, and not just as a footballer. So if something happened to me, I wouldn’t be starting from scratch.
THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF VISIONARY IS TO CHANGE THE MINDSET OF PLAYERS
Being a footballer is something that many of us dream about, so we are told that we have to give everything for it. That we have to give all of our attention, and all of our focus to this, and sacrifice everything else. We’re told that we shouldn’t think about anything else, and anything besides football is a distraction.
I think this is the wrong message to send to players. Because it can strengthen you as a football player to have other interests and other passions that can give you that level of security, and take your stress levels down on the pitch. Of course, it is very important to give football everything, especially in your early life, and you should always strive to be better on the pitch and train extra. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have other passions away from the game. It is possible to have both.
There is also a lot of pressure from fans. Often, they don’t like to see a football player doing other things away from the pitch. They see that as a distraction. They want their players to be thinking only about football and playing.
I think that is something that needs to change. And I want to be a part of that change. And that’s what I’m trying to do. I know it’s a long, long run. But I think the football world is starting to change in that way. Understanding that there is more to us and that we are humans.
The ultimate goal is to have a community of athletes as part of Visionary and to change their mindset. To help them develop their brand, but also their identity.
We are currently creating a platform, which we have started online, which lets you go through our workshop, and enables you to get to know yourself better. And then also to connect with relevant brands and brand deals to use your platform better.
A football career is only 30% of our lives, even less maybe? I think Visionary is especially important for youngsters. Because not everyone is going to be a footballer. It is crazy how low the percentage of those who make it in the game and play all the way to 35, 38, or 40. There are players that I have played with that I talk to about this, and they don’t know what they’re going to do when their career ends and naturally it is something they are worried about
I think when you get over the age of 30, then you start to think, ‘Shit, I’m getting close to the end of my career.’ So I should maybe start thinking about what’s next for me, and that can give you a huge amount of stress, which can affect your game as well. I really don’t think that’s necessary because I believe that your 30s are often when you are at your best as a player.
I know for a fact that there are many players who when they stop playing, their opportunities can often stop as well. So, with Visionary, we want to help players explore new possibilities and how they can utilise their platform whilst they are still playing. We want to encourage and motivate them to use their surroundings, their community, and the business minds at their club, who would love to talk to players about this. So why don’t you use it to open up some doors?
I definitely think football clubs could be better at helping players look at life without football and educating them better
With Visionary it is baby steps. Right now, we have started in Denmark, where we know a lot of people and then of course we want to go global at some point. It’s not only football we are targetting, but obviously, we start with our network and our network is in Denmark and the UK, and the more players we get on board and the more athletes we get on board, it can hopefully open up some other doors outside of our network.
What we really want to do and achieve is to build a community for players that can open them up to new possibilities and passions, and allow them to meet and make other connections.
So much of what we do is about opening a player’s mindset and giving them the confidence to take the next step. Making them understand how to use their brand and how to make the most of it.
I definitely think football clubs could be better at helping players to look at life without football and educating them better. I think there is still a bit of an old-school way of thinking.
Clubs look to get in as many players as possible to their academy, then maybe one will make it. And that’s enough for them. So that’s the way they think. For me, it’s a bit ruthless and they don’t really care about the rest. They will tell you they do, but of course, I don’t know for sure.
That’s why we want Visionary to work in collaboration with clubs, and to be a support mechanism for a player. Let us see how we can work together in a way that benefits your players.
HE useD his own platform to help change the world for the better. to me, that is exactly what a visionary is
If players understand the platform they have it can genuinely lead to a positive change in society and in people’s lives. Especially with the biggest players, but even also players on the next level and third level. They still have a great impact. People listen to athletes the most in the world. And I don’t think everyone understands that.
I know that in the football world if I speak about politics, people will listen to me more than a politician. That’s just how it is. You can see how people paid attention when football players and athletes across the board addressed the issue of Black Lives Matter.
We have also seen players like Marcus Rashford use his platform to help those in society who need it the most. He brought to light an issue that I wasn’t aware of, but he understood his own story and how he could use his own platform to help change the world for the better. And to me, that is exactly what a visionary is.
We have also seen Juan Mata, establish Common Goal, which has helped to changes lives around the world. And then we have basketball players like, LeBron James, who has dedicated a lot of his time and money to a number of charitable causes, throughout his career.
I feel in America that fans understand a player’s need and desire to do more away from the sport. And often athletes in America are better at using their platform, and fans accept this. They love to see who Steph Curry is away from the court and see him as a human being.
I feel here in the UK and Europe, we are not as accepting of that. You saw it with Rashford, he was going through a difficult time on the pitch, and not playing as well as he could and people were blaming it on the work he was doing off the pitch. For me, that is really wrong.
He found joy and an understanding of his own, and it is something that he had been through and could relate to, and he wanted to make a difference, and that was very powerful.
I think you now see the benefit of what he has done, and as a person, it has helped him to grow, and he seems more confident, and he is playing with such calmness and understanding. He has that perspective, ‘Okay if I don’t score today, it’s not the worst thing in the world.’ And he can still have a great day knowing the impact he has had off the pitch. I think that’s why he’s performing at the top level now, and is a reason why he is one of the best in the world.
I understand that I got an opportunity THAT OTHERS didn’t
My experience of travelling across Egypt, Ghana, Brazil and less privileged areas in Denmark, working with the Right to Dream Academy, and visiting the El Cambio Academy in Uganda, has been incredible.
By doing this it opened up doors that I may not have been thinking about. That is also what we want to do with Visionary. We want to show people that doing something like this, can actually open up doors for them.
I’m really passionate and interested in the academy side of football and giving opportunities to people that might not necessarily have had the same opportunities as I have. I understand that I got an opportunity that other people didn’t. I feel lucky and blessed, and the work I have done with The Right to Dream Academy and Shirts For Change has helped to shape my character development.
In Brazil, for example, there are so many talents and so many players that don’t make it. There are also those that make it but they need that extra guidance and help off to the pitch to make the most of their talent because often you need more than just that talent.
There is still so much talent that is getting lost though and it is a great feeling to be able to try and help them. With The Right to Dream model, if you don’t become a footballer, then there is an opportunity to gain a scholarship in America, the UK or somewhere in Europe. And that’s fantastic because they know not everybody is going to make it, but they help them no matter what.
I want to do someTHING more purposeful and use THAT time to educate myself
Through my travels, I see a lot of differences in cultures, and I find that very interesting. The pressure from parents in Brazil, and even in Egypt as well is massive. And also here in England, which is not the same in Denmark necessarily. And, of course in Africa, life is so different from being in Europe, and that has made a big impact on me.
I think the first time I went there I was like, ‘This is exactly what you see in the movies and documentaries.’ I had always thought, ‘They are just taking the worst parts.’ But this is actually exactly how it is. And that was a bit shocking to see, that it is still like this today, in the modern world. I think that maybe opened up my eyes even more, and it is an experience that has stuck with me and my feelings.
I would say that those experiences have changed me as a person. Travelling is one of my passions, and I use it as an opportunity to learn. I actually enjoy that more than just being in Marbella, or Dubai, where a lot of people go. And there is nothing wrong with that, but I think after three days, I have had enough of it, and I want to do something more purposeful and use the time to educate myself.
I have more of an understanding of where I come from and what I’ve been through, and that also reflects in my values
I have never felt like the other Danish guys. My mother was from Brazil and I grew up with my dad mostly. But his mindset was not 100% Danish. He was a musician and travelled to South America and that is where he found my mother. Growing up, I always felt a bit different, with my dark curly hair. And then my name was Emiliano Marcondes Camargo Hansen, so in Kindergarten, it was not easy to feel like the rest of the Danes.
But for me, it was great because I wanted to be a footballer and all my idols were Brazilian. My dad always told me stories about Ronaldinho and other players, and they became my heroes.
The area I grew up in was just outside of Copenhagen. People thought that If you stayed there it was because you couldn’t afford to live in Copenhagen. So there was a stigma attached. I felt like the poor guy and because of that, I had to work harder than the rest. With my idol being Ronaldinho, someone who was living in a favela, and didn’t have shoes, I felt a connection. That really motivated me.
Every time I wanted new football boots, my dad would say, ‘Why are you complaining? Ronaldinho didn’t even have shoes, and he became the world’s best footballer, so I think you can do it as well with these broken shoes.’ As I got older, I started to notice all of these different things, and I now have more of an understanding of where I have come from and what I’ve been through, and that also reflects in my values.
IT IS STILL THE BIGGEST FIRE INSIDE OF ME
When I talk about the work I do off the pitch, people always say how much help it must give to others. But it’s not just to help others, it is also to help myself. I get why people say or think that, and that’s what I thought as well when I would see people doing charity. But I understand it more now. I get so much joy from seeing the happiness it gives to people.
In terms of my rehab and my own career, I still feel so motivated to come to Bournemouth every day and work hard in the gym, it is the greatest feeling. To play football is still number one, and I just want to get back out there and score goals and win games and be on the grass and have that feeling and the smell of football.
I can’t wait and I’m still dreaming of playing in the Premier League, and I’m still dreaming of winning things, winning trophies and just being in and around the team and succeeding together. For me, that is the greatest feeling you can have. I still have so many dreams that I have had my whole career, and I want to play in the Champions League, I want to play in the Europa League and I think it’s still the biggest fire inside of me.
Football is still my everything and always will be my first priority. It was with a football at my feet I learned about life. And it will always be my number 1 love.
Thank you to the gentleman that is Emiliano Marcondes for his time.