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More Than - Ryan Babel

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More Than - Ryan Babel In Search of...

Ryan Babel

In Search of…

 
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More Than - Ryan Babel In Search of... | Image 501650

Quitting football is difficult. Nobody starts their career with the thought that it will end at some point, and nobody really knows when they will have to make this painful decision. For a footballer, the time he or she spends on the pitch often coincides with their whole life, from training to matches, from youth to professional teams, leaving a sometimes unbridgeable gap when the inevitable time comes to hang up their boots. However, not all footballers have centred their lives around their professional careers; some have managed to reconcile their passions and ambitions without compromise. Ryan Babel has never given up on being himself during his long career with Ajax, Liverpool, Hoffenheim and Galatasaray and has found the right balance between his private life and his performance on the pitch. And now that he's ready to write a new chapter in his story, we caught up with him to hear about the most special and special moment for a footballer in the last More Than.

More Than - Ryan Babel In Search of... | Image 501654
Full Look Ferragamo, earrings Versace
More Than - Ryan Babel In Search of... | Image 501655
Full Look Ferragamo, earrings Versace
More Than - Ryan Babel In Search of... | Image 501653
Full Look Ferragamo, earrings Versace

“When I decided to retire not so long ago, I terminated my contract with my team in Turkey in the middle of the season in October for political reasons and I was still trying to continue my career in January. I could have played for two more years, even though I'm 37, but I found that many of the new teams or opportunities I wanted to try were using my age against me. So I finally decided that I didn't want to continue for now. I want to play football because I enjoy it, but I'm not desperate, and because none of these teams gave me the satisfaction of welcoming me. I decided that I had to accept it. Yes, it was okay.” The realization that there is life beyond the pitch is something Babel has always had and it has helped him to stand with both feet firmly on the ground until he embarked on a new path without fear of the void.

“I've been making music since I was very young. I was already in music groups at school and studied at the conservatory. I play a few instruments, so I was involved in music from an early age and expressed that early on in my career by working with Dutch artists.” But that was in the early 2000s, when a closed and oppressive rhetoric still prevailed in the football world and the young Ryan Babel's musical ambitions were not well received. In fact, the Dutch striker himself recounts how “at the beginning of my career, I received a lot of criticism from the Dutch media and fans because they thought my passion for music was distracting me from my commitment to football. That's why I took a step back, so as not to show that I was too busy with the music.” But Babel didn't let the criticism get him down and instead of giving up his passion, he simply took a step back.

In my career, especially in the beginning, players didn't care much about fashion, but those who did often thought that being fashionable meant buying and wearing the most expensive clothes. And I don't think that necessarily means being fashionable.
More Than - Ryan Babel In Search of... | Image 501652
In my career, especially in the beginning, players didn't care much about fashion, but those who did often thought that being fashionable meant buying and wearing the most expensive clothes. And I don't think that necessarily means being fashionable.
More Than - Ryan Babel In Search of... | Image 501651

“I opened my first music label in 2009 when I was still playing for Liverpool and started scouting for talent. I started signing young and very young artists and helping them realise their dream. At that time I was building a music studio in my house in Liverpool and so I became more behind the scenes, more on the business side, more on the creative side, more focused on helping talent release their music.” Living in a heavily musical city that inspired him during his time in England, Babel has retained such a genuine interest in the seven notes that, when a journalist approached him to persuade him to write a book about his life, he declined without first stealing his idea and making an autobiography through music. The Autobiography - Chapter 1 is exactly his first solo album, which he composed and recorded in 2021 when he combined his love of rap with piano studies. He is now working on his second record.

“It's funny that so many Dutch footballers have now become rappers. From Memphis Depay to Noa Lang, everyone is now going into the studio to record. I was the first and all I got back then was criticism.” Football has changed a lot in the meantime - and Babel has contributed to this change - and it is easier for sportsmen and women to express themselves off the pitch.

And one of the most travelled paths in recent years is definitely fashion and personal style, another world that Babel enters by attending various Fashion Week shows in Paris with his characteristic curiosity. “I think there's a lot more to understand and learn about fashion than just the looks. It's also interesting to learn from all the designers where their inspiration comes from and to recognise their expression in the clothes they bring to the market. That's very fascinating for me.” Again, Babel's interest in fashion stems from music, or rather from a key figure in the scene at the beginning of the millennium, who is now the Louis Vuitton's Creative Director. We're of course talking about Pharrell Williams, who was a reference and a guide for Babel not only in terms of the clothes he wore, but precisely in the way he constantly defined himself. “He had something special about him, he presented himself as a black man, but he wasn't necessarily stereotypically dressed like a black man. He had his own unique style in terms of his fashion, his jewellery, his style and even his music. I think his personality really impressed me and it was very inspiring to see how out of the box he was. He dared to express his style and I think my fashion journey starts right there”.

And he, who has spent more than two decades in various dressing rooms, is well placed to talk about how the relationship between footballers and fashion has changed after being almost inevitable for a long time. “In my career, especially in the beginning, players didn't care much about fashion, but those who did often thought that being fashionable meant buying and wearing the most expensive clothes. And I don't think that necessarily means being fashionable.” We were - and in many cases still are - in a time when luxury was the predominant means of asserting success, whereas today clothing is seen as a means of expressing one's personality. “If you look at today, it seems to me that footballers have a much more fashionable style. And the teams and brands have also recognised this and are slowly adapting to promote the players through their fashion and style.”

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Full Look Bluemarble, earrings Versace, ring Talent’s Own
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Full Look MSGM, earrings Versace, ring Talent’s Own
More Than - Ryan Babel In Search of... | Image 501662
Full Look, earrings, chain Versace, ring Talent’s Own

And it's this awareness that is driving Ryan Babel these days, now that he has the time and confidence to finally choose what he feels comfortable with. “When we talk about fashion, I really want to find out more now and see if fashion is something I want to focus on 100 per cent, whether it's as a creative director or as an ambassador. And yes, right now I'm still in that discovery phase, and like I said, fashion is one of those things, but so is music. I'm involved in the cryptocurrency space. I'm into financial education, investing and helping people manage their finances smarter.” While for many players the moment when the painful decision to quit comes is traumatic, Ryan Babel has instead taken full control of his life after football.

“Now I enjoy my freedom. I travel a lot and do a lot of things that I enjoy. But I think what I've realised now is that it's hard to figure out what I really want to do and what I wake up and go to sleep with I've so many things that I do, but at the same time none of the things I do have ignited my spark and so I'm in a phase where I'm trying to find the right direction.”

Photographer: Tobi Sobowale
Ph. Assistant: Gifty Dzenyo
Stylist: Antonio Autorino
MUAH: Riona O’Sullivan
Interview: Lorenzo Bottini