Professional Soccer Leagues I've Experienced
I was fortunate enough to play and go on trial all across the world from Europe (Serbia, Ireland, Croatia and England) to Asia (Malaysia).
The beauty is that I got to experience not only the on-field requirements and tests it takes but also the off-field criteria. Things like the politics, traditions and the team culture of all these nations, so listen closely.
European Soccer Leagues
Europe is Europe. The centre of football worldwide and by far has the best soccer leagues in the world, that's why anybody who's anybody on the world stage plays for a top flight club across the pond.
From my experiences there both teams I've played with and against there is no other continent right now that can rival what they do in terms of team play and quality of players, oh ya and the garbage truck full of cash they dump on some players driveways.
Whether it was Serbia, Ireland or England the best players in the world aspire to play and currently play in the 1st divisions all over Europe and that's why it is regarded as having the best soccer leagues in the world.
What are the Lower Ranks like the European 2nd and 3rd Divisions Like?
When I first got to Serbia I trained with a third division team until my first trial was locked in with a second division team and it was also a great experience. I realized that so much in football is perseverance and luck.
No doubt the best players play in the top division and the best teams too but the difference between a third or second division player and a first division player isn't as big of gap as you may think. In fact there are several lower league players who don't get the right bounces (no pun intended) to get to the top even though they are talented enough.
The second and third divisions in a nutshell are comprised of young hungry players trying to make a name for themselves in football and older almost out of the game players who still love to play.
The heart and passion played in the lower leagues is truly a better thing because these players are not only playing to one day make the first division but they are also playing for the paycheck and for their kids to eat. When I had a team captain walk into the change room at halftime one game when we were up a goal screaming “next weekend is my daughters birthday, and she's getting a good present, don't be the one to take it out of her hands by (bleeping) it up” I knew soccer here was much more than for fun.
Because you see in Europe their are game bonuses for victories and other good away results so every game matters and is either taking food off, or putting food on somebody's table.
What's Soccer Like in Malaysia?
First, the fans are pretty wild and they come in numbers, (lots of people in Asia? get outta town!) they are very passionate about their teams and foreigners are put under extra pressure because of their obligation to produce because of their high salary requirements.
I was on trial at first in Malaysia and the quality of the domestic players is not very high, but the competition to make the team as a foreign player is very high because these players are the highest paid and that attracts talent.
If you ever end up on a trial in Malaysia or thereabouts you will be on trial not to see if you are better then the players that are currently on the team (which there's a good chance you will be). But you're main competition is the other foreigners there trying to make the team. Best foreigner makes the team and that's all you'll be compared to.
Why don't they take all the foreigners if they're better then the current domestic players you ask? Well rules and regulations restrict that to keep football Asian dominant and keep their own developing at young ages all the way up.
I also got to experience the Malaysian second division and to be fair it's quite poor. I played with a 2nd division team as part of a training match (scored two goals, cough cough) but to be honest the quality was quite low. Not real polished pro's that could make an impact on a game and 90% of the players couldn't crack a starting line up on a top College team in North America from my experience their.
Is it Hard to Get to These Leagues?
That's an answer that is much more complex then a simple yes or no. So much of finding your way in any professional team is opportunity. Ya you have to be extremely talented and master of your craft but finding your way on to a team that lacks your position or is in need of what you provide is even more important than anything else.
Yes it's hard, if it were easy we'd all be playing in Europe and Asia and it wouldn't be your life's greatest accomplishment and joy if everybody hopped on a plane and signed a pro contract as soon as they landed. Hard yes, impossible? Never.
Best Professional Soccer Leagues in the World?
You could go back and forth for a while with this one. The four best leagues in the world (as per their champions league team allowance) are the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, German Bundes Liga and Italian Serie A. Anybody who tells you that those four aren't in the conversation for best league in the world has bigger problems then soccer.
Why Are They The Best?
Easy. Richest clubs, attract best players in the world, simple as that. The best players in the world will always play where they can get the biggest contracts because in football your window in the spot light is tiny and shrinks each and every day.
Is it Difficult to Get to These Soccer Leagues?
Difficult is an understatement to say the least. These leagues take players that are cream of the crop and have something to offer now and into the future.
If you're coming as a foreigner without a European passport to these countries you better be Ronaldinho's brother and the owners son to get one of the coveted foreign spots on the roster. Having and EU passport makes everything easier, you can then be judged based on your talent not your pay requirements or other legalities.
Is It Really That Big of a Step Up?
Ya it really is. When I went to Europe (Serbia) It was a step up and the level was obviously very good but I felt confident I could play with them and I could. When we talk about the best of the best in Europe that's a whole other level that takes years of striving for to accomplish.
How Much Better Is it Than The MLS?
Well it's truly hard to say. People always want to compare leagues to the MLS so they can get a gage on how an MLS top team would fair in top leagues in Europe. Some MLS teams can hold their own against the best but would never be in contention to win a top league in Europe, not even close.
But other less known first division countries in Europe they may have a more realistic shot at doing damage.
Are All Soccer Leagues Over Sea's Professional?
No. Some times the perception that everywhere in Europe is professional and they're throwing bags of money at you every day can get young aspiring pro's in trouble. Their are several lower leagues in Europe that aren't professional and may only pay your housing and food, where some may not even pay that.
Some players want to go and play in these lower soccer leagues and get paid in rocks so they can tell their buddies back home that they played in Europe. Put some time in researching where you're going so you know what you are getting yourself into.
Is There a Big Pay Difference Between Different Soccer Leagues?
God yes. To put it in perspective the Championship in England (2nd division, one under EPL) pays better then most first division European soccer leagues excluding of course Spain, Italy and Germany.
Higher the division, higher the wages (generally) we all know that but it also depends club to club in terms of financial backing and support from the city itself. Not every city can have Russian millionaire owners take over their club and give each player Lexus Helicopters every week, cough Man City, cough Chelsea.