The name Andrea Figus is not a name that will spring to the mind’s of many Serie A followers. Even die hard Cagliari fans may have difficulty remembering their former player. But his story is one that truly inspires.
Born on the island of Sardinia, Figus developed as a player through the Cagliari youth system and his career progressed to the point that he represented his country at under 19 level. However, having played in Serie A, Serie B and Lega Pro, and having pitted his wits against Italian greats such as Alessandro Del Piero, Gianluca Festa and Christian Vieri, Figus realised his career was not heading down the millionaire route. As such he decided to retire aged just 29-years-old.
During his years as a professional footballer, Figus was also planning for the future and was studying at university doing a medical degree. Supportive parents allowed him to pursue his dream of playing football as a career but they struck a deal with their son insisting that he also studied to prepare for a life after football.
“They reminded me I could choose what I wanted to do, but that I had to go to university” Figus admitted. Aware of the perceptions that some modern day footballers portray, Andrea felt he was worthy of more. “I always thought I wanted to get a degree, to be somebody other than just a footballer. I didn’t want to be considered ignorant, which is what a lot of people think about footballers.”
Andrea’s father was a plastic surgeon but advised the student footballer against heading into medicine as an alternative career. “He always told me not to. But in my head I thought I could do medicine and sport by going into orthopaedics.” As he progressed through his studies at the University of Cagliari, Figus realised he wanted to practice surgery just like his father. After gaining his medical degree, he studied for a further three years in Plastic Surgery at the University of Sassari. Retirement from the professional game allowed the former striker to travel to Brazil to complete a fellowship in plastic and microsurgery.
Unlike his professional football career, Figus’s medical career progressed at a rapid rate. In 2005, Figus earned an Honorary Consultant Post working in the field of general plastic surgery at the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of La Sapienza in Rome. He combined this role with consultancy, after also taking up a position in the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Perugia.
In 2008 his journey was complete. Andrea Figus, a former Serie A footballer, arrived in the East of England and in September he accepted his present appointment as a Consultant at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital based in Colney.
Fame never followed Andrea as a player but in March 2011, he made national news as the striker turned surgeon reattached a builder’s almost severed hand in a 10-hour operation.
Summing up his different career paths, Figus is grateful for the time he had playing the game he loved. “I have to tell you, I really wanted to be a footballer. I was a professional footballer for Cagliari, but I wasn’t a millionaire by any means, far far from it. But getting paid to play the game I love was enough.”
Passionate for the game he loves, this ex-footballer defied the traditional stereotypes and continues to push the boundaries in his new found career. His love for Sardinia still burns strong however, and he travels home regularly with his wife and young child. Once a footballer gracing the fields of Serie A, Figus now operates in a very different environment, making his journey truly unique.
By Mark Neale: @neale_mark