Marvin Sordell retired from professional football at the age of 28
He co-founded his own film production company called 180 Productions
"I always thought I had more to offer the world than just playing football"
When training was over at Coventry City, Marvin Sordell would head over to the flight school that was around the corner from the training ground. "I used to fly a Cessna, which is a small two-seater plane. I didn’t manage to finish my license but I got just under 30 hours completed and finished all nine exams and had flown solo at that point as well."
In the summer of 2019, at the age of 28, Sordell hung up his boots as a professional for good. Career highlights included stints in the Premier League with Bolton Wanderers and Burnley and three appearances for Team GB at the Men's Olympic Football Tournament London 2012, where he lined up alongside the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Ryan Giggs. But he always knew there was more to life for him than football.
"I’ve always looked at things outside the game purely because of my personality," Sordell told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview. "I’ve always wanted to grow. I always thought I had more to offer the world than just playing football.
"I tried so many different things. I love to cook, so I did a lot of cooking. I’m a qualified personal trainer and I did that. I was learning to play the piano. I was learning to fly. I was learning other languages as well and started to write and then started to make short films."
His love for storytelling ultimately led him to co-found his own film company, alongside former team-mate Will Miller, called 180 Productions, after Sordell started writing poetry and sending it to Miller.
"It just got to a point where now, over the last year since we launched, we actually have some really good connections and got really good ideas just bringing all these different elements together to actually push out some good content for people," said Sordell. "We’ve used this period [during COVID-19] to restructure our business and our business strategy moving forward."
Sordell has written openly about his struggle with depression, so how is he processing the difficult place the world and society finds itself in right now?
"Like everyone I’ve spoken with, there have been ups and downs," Sordell said. "I have days, sometimes weeks, that I find it tough. It is very much out of the ordinary and it can be overwhelming at times.
"For me it’s just about trying to learn as much as possible and recognising different things about myself. It’s a very difficult period, but at the same time there’s a lot that we can gain from this period of time because we’re never going to have such a time where we’re forcibly disconnected physically from so many people, so we’re not going to be able to reflect as much and we’re not going to be able to spend as much time at home.
"Even with little tasks, I speak to my wife and say, ‘Just celebrate the small things’. It’s about the small wins, even when you wake up and make the bed, that’s a tick. The more you build on that every day, day by day you end up achieving a lot of things.
"They may be small things, but you’re still getting ahead and ticking things off. And don’t worry about the big things you need to do because sometimes you won’t be able to get everything done and achieve it all in one day or one week. I think trying to keep positive in that sense is what I’ve been trying to do more than anything."
Sordell's life example ties in to this point of history in almost an effortless way. As humans it’s important to stretch ourselves and to challenge ourselves in other endeavours and to get outside of our comfort zones. Sordell's been enjoying gardening these days and has found it to be very relaxing and his long-term goal is to get his lawn looking immaculate. "I don’t do any of the weeding because I don’t really like getting stuck in like that! I like to see the progress of everything."
For people who do struggle and suffer with depression, what would be some guidance for them, especially those who are having to isolate and live alone?
"The biggest thing is to speak to people and reach out to your friends and family," Sordell said. "That’s the number one thing. If you’re feeling lonely and you’re by yourself, I’d say to do that because these are the people who will always love you.
"As much as we’re disconnected physically, emotionally we can get stronger relationships off the back of this period of time, because we’ve probably got more time to have these conversations. I highly recommend doing that and exercise as well is a big one. In the same way we look after our physical health in all aspects – I wouldn’t wait until I was on my death bed or obese to then start exercising – we need to treat our emotional health and well-being because it can deteriorate the same way your physical health can."
His hopes for football post-COVID-19 are to see more money poured in to mental health matters, including studies in to head injuries, grassroots football and decreased ticket prices for fans, which he says are "extortionately expensive when they don’t actually need to be". But Sordell will keep telling stories, whether it be through writing or film.
"I’m able to learn something new all the time because you come across different stories, you do research and you find out so much more about different people and cultures," he said. "It’s exciting in that sense and it has really fulfilled me in that way."