‘Clubs abandon you’ – Jeremie Frimpong launches youth support charity in Ghana

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Bayer Leverkusen and Netherlands star Jeremie Frimpong has launched his own foundation which seeks to help youth players who do not manage to turn professional, offering them a range of services to help them in their next stage of life.

Frimpong’s foundation — called “Pathways” — was launched on Wednesday and will initially operate in Ghana, the UK, Netherlands, and Germany. The 23-year-old says personal experience of seeing old teammates failing to make the grade and witnessing how lost they are afterwards prompted him to take action.

“There comes a day when you are told that being a professional footballer doesn’t work out,” Frimpong told ESPN. “Your dream is destroyed. You feel vulnerable. Depressed. Totally depressed. I think it’s important then that there are people who help you. You are just a child. You shouldn’t have to do that alone either. That’s why I started this project. I want to help the youth as much as I can.”

Frimpong is currently excelling at the Bundesliga-topping Leverkusen side, while he has won one cap for the Netherlands. He came through the ranks at Manchester City’s academy, before joining Celtic and then Leverkusen in 2021. But the memories of seeing his teammates drop out every year in the Man City academy and then trying to navigate life after football have stayed with him.

“I know what it’s like to be told you won’t become a professional footballer. I have plenty of people around me to whom this has happened. To be told that as a child is the worst thing there is,” Frimpong said. “I feel clubs abandon you after that. They don’t help you. As a kid, it’s too much to go through that alone. I know you have a family, but sometimes that’s not enough.”

He added: “You feel like the world is against you. You have nothing else left because you wanted to be a professional footballer. Then Pathways is there to help you get your life on track. So that you can become what you want to become.”

Frimpong hopes his foundation will eventually become a worldwide project. “Pathways is a project I have wanted to realise for a long time. I can’t wait for it to start. It is about youth players who did not make it to professional footballer, but it is not the end of the world to not get a professional contract,” he said.

“There are other things you can do. You can become whoever you want to become. And Pathways is a guide to help you do that. We try to help by facilitating equipment and resources. We will be there to help.”

A recent survey conducted by ITV News found that nearly 90% of young players feel anxious or depressed after having to leave their club, while 72% feel their club had not given them enough support.

Frimpong has kept in touch with previous teammates who have gone on to forge promising careers outside of football and has remained close to those who struggled. “I know you want to become a professional footballer, but that doesn’t always happen. But there are more things in life you can be good at,” he said.

“To give people a chance to have enough too. I’ll do anything to help. It just feels good to do this. I talked to my family about it. They also understood why I am doing this. And this is something I have always wanted to do. I am now in the position to do this. I was waiting to be in this position. That I can help others. I’ve always wanted that.

“This is how I want to help. There are plenty of examples of players who don’t turn pro and are just on their own. They have no idea what to do and are and depressed. Nobody deserves to be depressed. So, I just want to help as much as possible.”

Pathways was founded on January 3 and can be found at www.joinpathways.com. The foundation targets players 15 to 22 years old, both male and female. The foundation provides access to a network of mental health practitioners who can offer support.

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