It was not easy with the language, obviously. I had nobody to help me with the paperwork or making phone-calls so it was really difficult. You can’t do nothing really; if you don’t speak the same language as someone it’s difficult for even the simple things – like asking for water. If you don’t speak the same language then how are you going to ask? It was really hard. I think that is the most important thing when you come to a different country – the language is the most difficult thing. You can’t have a friend, really, because if you go out with them, how are you going to talk to them? Even if they have a joke, you can’t understand. So sometimes you prefer to stay at home on your own. It’s not nice, but if you don’t speak English, how are you going to enjoy your time?
- Mamady Sidibe (Stoke City)
Most of the time at a football club they always have PR that will help you to settle. But I think as a foreigner, sometimes it is difficult and you might need more professional people looking after you. It is true that the clubs do their best, but I think that if you had a PR that understands your culture and where you’re coming from, then it will make it easier for players to settle.
- Salif Diao (Stoke City)
It depends on how you come over here (England). With my situation, it’s quite different because I came via somewhere else before coming to England. It has been tough leaving my country (South Africa) at the age of 17 to come to Germany and to Holland, but the good thing is that I went to Holland and I used to live with a Dutch family before moving on and living by myself and that’s the way forward. As African players, I would say that we have a strong mentality. But it’s quite important that when you get to England, it’s important you get to know the culture of people. The most important thing as a youngster is to live with a group and English family so you are able to get the proper mentality of the country where you’re at. And that’s exactly what I’ve done.
- Aaron Mokoena (Portsmouth FC)
For me, it was a massive change to come to England in my first year because the English in the town is very different from in the cities. The worst thing was that I got injured and I can’t speak with the physio about what is happening and what is wrong (because I couldn’t speak English). Maybe I think there could have been a better translator for the first 2-3 months which I really needed.
- Diego Arismendi (Stoke City)
I think all transfers have an element of risk, based on obviously background. Maybe these players haven’t moved before, maybe they’re a 22-year-old boy who’s lived at home for the first 22 years of his life, and then all of a sudden he gets this wonderful deal into the Premier League and moves to a different area, and he has the family to think about. And if he’s got no girlfriend or no wife, you’ve got the parents to think about then. Yes it can be as big a risk as what a foreign loan can be or transfer can be. But at the same time, there is an element of risk in any transfer.” “I’ve stumbled upon a number of unsettled players and you find out the reason; the reason can be minimal with regards to your own life. It just may be the fact that they don’t how to get a TV or they don’t know how to open a bank account, or something as trivial as that to you, it’s very important to them. In terms of you’re only at the football club for 2 or 3 hours a day and then you’re going home to an empty house and maybe no family, and that emptiness is the part that unsettles him, and it’s the part that doesn’t allow them to play the football which you know they can play.
- Phil Brown – Former Hull City, Derby County, Preston North End and Bolton Wanderers Manager
I think it's an imperative, in light of recent events, that we start to broaden our minds about catering for the individual footballer. We need to actually cater for the person and not just the footballing assets. One area which has been lacking has been the support of the overseas players coming into our national game and helping them make that transition in between cultures, in between languages and life-styles.
- Clarke Carlisle (PFA Chairman):
I come from a background where if you have to get help mentally then you’re weak – and that’s a fault – because there isn’t anything weak about that. But unfortunately I’ve came to realise that 3 or 4 years too late." “The biggest problem we had was my wife. We’d just had a baby – it was two months old – and I really had no right to take my wife away from her support network. I moved her to the middle of nowhere – she didn’t know anyone and there was nothing to do. That was another mistake which very nearly cost me my career and cost me my family. It doesn’t matter if you go to Old Trafford or to Anfield, it’s very difficult to function as a player if you’ve got these things going on in the back of your head. And certainly that one was a major factor in it (time at Stoke) not turning out as I may have liked.
- Dave Kitson (Portsmouth)