They've got vast sums of money, loads of free time, and massively-inflated egos, so why don't more ex-pros swap Predators for Pioneers?
News broke earlier this week that Djibril Cisse, the flamboyant former Liverpool double-leg break striker, had retired from the beautiful game. This in itself isn't unusual—players, after all have to call it a day at some point. Footballers of yore tended, the cliche went, to drift into pub-owning, or racehorse-massaging. Others became coaches or pundits, pumping a few quid into their pension-pot for noting that conceded goals are often the fault of poor defensive play. Cisse, the Lord of Frodsham, isn't doing any of these. Instead he's pursuing a different line of work: Djibril Cisse is becoming a DJ.
In an interview with Yahoo Sport the French international said, "I loved being a footballer, and so far the ball has been my life. I would have liked to continue playing but I must admit today that football is over. With the same passion, I will devote myself wholeheartedly to my career as DJ, producer and consultant, as well as developing my clothing brand. Thank you for all your support. The adventure continues, another life begins. A lion never dies."
Which, I'm sure you'll agree, is stirring stuff. Lions never die and neither do legends. Yet, Cisse can't be the first footballer to turn their hand to the dark arts of DJing, can he? And no that Emile Heskey celebration doesn't count.
Footballers, being young men who earn lots of money and carry with them considerable amounts of social capital, are going to find themselves in nightclubs every so often. Now, obviously, given that even a journeyman centre-back washed up on the shores of a struggling League Two team is to all extents and purposes an elite athlete, they probably aren't going to be necking pints and pills like most of the population. We have to assume that instead, they guzzle Brecon Carreg and study the art of DJing in monk-like silent contemplation before driving themselves back to a sprawling mansion in Cheshire and drifting off into a deep sleep where they dream of nothing but mis-hit crosses and the hairdryer treatment from an irate gaffer.
Given the combination of sobriety and the fact that literally anyone can be a DJ, it's surprising players haven't indulged a passion for Pioneers on more occasions. You like telling your mates you're a DJ, don't you? I like mentioning DJing to friends too. So if you and I like it, why wouldn't Frank Lampard or Jan Molby or Pele get the same visceral thrill from sliding a USB into an antiquated CDJ in a half-empty club on a Thursday night? They're only human!
Despite all that humanity, the oodles of free time, and the endless bundles of cash which wing their way virtually into accounts week after week—very few of them actually become DJs.
As far as I know, neither Pele, Jan Molby, or Frank Lampard have DJd. In fact, the closest Lampard has come is describing the apparent saviour of the world itself, LBC's very own Foghorn Wokehorn himself, James O'Brien, as an "idiot," which was prescient, if not quite enough to actually get him a set alongside Loco Dice at a Printworks party.
Perhaps some footballers have DJd and we simply don't know about it? You know who I reckon spends night after night trawling through the bargains on Beatport, looking for something to get Elton John and Gigi Hadid losing their shit? David Beckham. I mean, OK, the only proof I or anyone else has of this is a single photo of him stood in the booth at garage night Twice As Nice with his old pal Dane Bowers back in 2001, but what a single photo it is. Look at Becks gazing longingly towards the mixer! Watch how Goldenballs unwittingly adopts the glassy and gauzy countenance of Ricardo Villalobos at his sloppiest! Marvel at how Dane looks like a moodier Josh Barker from My Parents Are Aliens. Just imagine being there that night: you and your best mates, sucking down bottle after bottle of champers while Becks'n'Bowers play So Solid Crew records. Stuff your Studio 54! Tresor's for tossers! Berghain? More like boring punchline to any joke about clubbing written after 2008!
OK, so Beckham didn't actually DJ that night. As great as it is that Ashley Young became the defacto selector in the Old Trafford dressing room at the behest of UK Funky mad ex-manager Louis Van Gaal, the likelihood that he was working the the rotary mixer next to an irritated David de Gea—a metal fan—is quite unlikely. And no, despite what you tell yourself halfway through an impromptu and ill-advised Spotify-assisted set at a house party, playing off a phone doesn't actually count as DJing.
Another Liverpool player, Steven Gerrard, famously got up close and personal with a DJ once, but as far as we—and the police—know, the midfield general never actually got to play "Easy Lover" or "In the Air Tonight" after punching the Lounge Inn, Southport's resident selector Marcus McGhee in the face three times. Sadly we'll also never know if the former England captain made his way to the Weekender to soak up a Chez Damier B2B Kerri Chandler closing set.
Which leaves us with an unlikely trio of ex-pros who genuinely do step up to the wheels of steel of a Saturday night: Djibril Cisse, Gaizka Mendieta, and Pat Nevin.
Nevin has carved a nice niche for himself as everyone's favourite indie-appreciating Scottish winger-cum-DJ, playing old Pastels records out on a regular basis. Mendieta, a midfielder who fell out with his then Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate and subsequently drifted out of the game, used to slip on a special hat and sneak into the clubs of Valencia to play Kings of Leon records to a presumably non-plussed audience who wondered why the guy playing "Molly's Chambers" was wearing a fedora.
After all that, Cisse stands alone, a solitary beacon of real club culture. Fabric, give the man a room one residency ASAP, and let's hope a few of his former team mates step up do the dreaded opening set.