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Challenge and Relief: A Foucauldian Disciplinary Analysis of Retirement From Professional Association Football in the United Kingdom

The aim of this study was to consider the retirement experiences of British male professional association footballers by utilising Foucault’s analysis of discipline discussed in Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Specifically, we drew upon Foucault to consider how, through the various techniques and instruments of discipline, the professional football context produces ‘docile footballing bodies’ and how this might influence a player’s experiences in retirement. We gathered our empirical material using a Foucauldian-informed interview framework with 25 former professional male football players between the ages of 21 and 34. Our analysis suggested that retirement from football was both a challenge and a relief for our participants, and that their extended period of time within football’s strong disciplinary apparatus significantly influenced how they experienced their retirement.