As a lot of the planet went into lockdown in a bid to curb the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Hougang United defender Zac Anderson buried his head deeper into his novels in his latest move towards life after football.
Shortly following the Singapore Premier League suspended drama March 24, the 29-year-old was continuing his work towards a Masters degree in Business Administration, all part of a plan to get ready for the days when he no longer pulls his boots also takes to football fields around Asia.
“It has been a big semester,” the prior Sydney FC participant told the-AFC. com.
“I got lucky that I flipped it up somewhat this season and then we’ve had what’s occurred globally. I moved from two to 3 subjects, and they are all fund issues, so it’s quite mentally draining. As soon as soccer slowed down I sunk my energy into that.”
Life after football is a topic rarely discussed inside the game, but with a solid grounding in the significance of education, Anderson has had a single eye on what he plans to do once his playing career has concluded.
Knowing he was not likely to reach the pinnacle of the sport from a young age made it easier for Anderson to place significant focus on life from the game, however much he loved soccer and dedicated himself to it.
“My parents are both college teachers so that I come from an academic family,” he says. “When I began my football profession they pushed me to keep my academic research”
“I recall being at a Professional Footballers Australia conference and they had me up to speak about why I had been studying law at the time and I mentioned: I’m a fairly bang typical footballer and I am not likely to make the money that Mark Schwarzer — since he had been in the room — was creating, so I understand at a stage in my life I’m going to have to transition and receive another career.
“And everyone was like: What are you talking about? You do not back yourself? It wasn’t the stereotypical thing to say. As a young footballer, you are supposed to say: I’m going to play for Chelsea, or whatever. But at a young age, I had the knowledge to know that, yeah I really like soccer and I had been planning to work as hard as I could but the possibilities I was likely to be a Mark Schwarzer or a Lucas Neill were rather slim.”
“I didn’t want to put all my eggs in 1 basket and I ended up copping a little bit of flack for it, but here we are. I was lucky I was grounded and that I was not told that I was better than I had been. There’s that problem in a lot of sports, where players have people around them who are not really fair.
“I was very lucky that my mom and dad and my loved ones and intimate friends told me how good I had been, which wasn’t very good. The second part of it is to be able to go to Europe and make enough money to last for the rest of your life is slim. And you need to understand how to reinvest the cash and not blow it.
“I understand footballers who went abroad and made great money but they’ve blown it since they didn’t know what to do with it. They made so many errors because individuals have taken advantage of those.”
Despite his reservations about his ability, Anderson has managed to carve out a good career.
From there he moved to play Sydney FC before joining Emirates FC from the United Arab Emirates as well as with a spell in Malaysia with Kedah, PKNS, and Perak that he recounts with Fantastic affection.
“I moved into the UAE after which I moved to Malaysia, and that was likely the best time in my profession since I was playing in, week out and really felt it since I had been playing in front of 30 and 40,000 fans,” he said.
“The amount in Malaysia is perhaps a little less than the A-League, but what’s cool is that you’re playing in front of all these people each week. You actually feel like a footballer, because if you do not win you can’t go to the mall!
“When I left Malaysia and moved back to Australia I was thinking about giving football away. I wasn’t sure when I had the passion to continue. I am an all-or-nothing kind of man and I believe with a little bit of time off, two months maybe not thinking about soccer and turning my head away from all of the agents was good because it gave me clarity. It made me realise that this was the opportunity to consider what I’ll do after football.”
“I still love playing, I love training and going out and trying to win. I am still aggressive, but why don’t you use soccer as a vehicle for another step.”
That led him to Singapore, where he joined Hougang United FC as they prepared for the 2020 AFC Cup after finishing in third place at the 2019 edition of this Singapore Premier League. The move enabled him to unite his continuing desire to play opportunities to get ready for a life in the company world.
Having experienced the AFC Champions League throughout his period with Sydney FC and Central Coast Mariners, the possibility of incorporating in the Arabian contest was just one Anderson relished.
“I saw an opportunity when I was in Malaysia to come to Singapore to get a little bit. I could see the way Singapore was developing itself for business and I was starting to find opportunities in media.
“The AFC Cup’s a wonderful competition and it’s one of the reasons I came into Hougang.
“The AFC Cup is something very similar for us and I have enjoyed it, but it has been a different experience. Hougang are more in the competition for exposure and experience. The Singapore league is more about creating younger players to assist the national team and that is something I have needed to appreciate quickly.”
Regardless of that, Hougang stay in contention for a place in the knockout rounds of the contest once it resumes. They now sit in third spot in Group F at the halfway point, four points behind joint leaders Ho Chi Minh City and Yangon United.
Hougang’s next game will be in Singapore against the team from Myanmar and that will be critical for the hopes of progressing into the next stage.
“That is the make or break for us,” said Anderson. “If we could win that match and then go away and get a result against Ho Chi Minh City then we have an opportunity. At the beginning of the season, we sat down and said: We want to win the Singapore Premier League and we want to try and make it through the group stage of the AFC Cup.
“Let us see what happens. Hopefully, we could get back playing and we could get a result and push on.”