How I experienced my first summer as a free agent

Aug 31, 2017 | News

Johan Djourou

Johan Djourou

After playing football for 11 years, I experienced something new this summer. For the first time in my career, I entered the offseason as a free agent. I had no contract, and no guarantees for the future. It was a strange feeling, but exciting at the same time.

In a normal football offseason, I would typically take ten days off before returning to work. This year, given that I was without a contract, I knew that I would have a few more weeks to prepare individually. Nowadays, it has become impossible for athletes to take three or four weeks off during offseason. Time away is very important both to recharge the body and mind. It is also great for the family, too.

This year, I decided to return to a village that has a special place in my heart: Macolin, Switzerland. When I was 13-years old, I went to this small Swiss mountain village for the first time. It is a place every Swiss elite athlete has been at least once in their life, and it is a village I’ve got to know very well. Macolin hosts training camps for elite Swiss athletes of all sports who come together to work toward a common goal and to achieve their dreams.

Returning to Macolin was great for my overall fitness, and to work on my fundamentals. However, being up there all by myself made me realize how far I had come from being a little 13-year-old dreamer. It really woke up a certain nostalgia in me that has helped me to refocus my energy.

While training, I also spent a lot of time working with Oliver Riedwyl, the strength and conditioning trainer of the Swiss national team. He has been following me for quite some time and pushes me to my limits and beyond each day. We focused on improving my all-around body strength, along with my core, agility and explosiveness.

It was also the first time in my career that I had lots of time to spend with my family. We had a lot of fun and really enjoyed the time together. This has helped me a lot to release the mental pressure I accumulated during a difficult year with Hamburg.

As my girls get older, moving all around the world becomes more difficult. They got used to living in Hamburg and it is hard to take them away from their friends and school. It is the same for my partner, who has made very close friends during our four years in Germany. Given that my contract was expiring, we knew that we were going to move; so, we had time to prepare. While there were negatives to leaving Germany, we were also very excited to write a new chapter in our lives, so that helped to make being out of contract more positive.

Even though being a free agent is often emotionally stressful, because of the uncertainty of not knowing where I will play next, I must say that this offseason has been very positive for me. It gave me more time to prepare physically and mentally for the new challenges ahead. In all of my career, I have never felt stronger than I do now.

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