Translation:I was a soccer player many years ago.
It would be more likely, but not more accurate. If you're collapsing that action to a single point in the past, i.e. nothing else you refer to has happened during that time, using the preterite is appropriate.
You can use the preterite to refer to a long period of time in the past. Note this entry regarding Pablo Picasso from the Spanish Wikipedia.
Pablo Ruiz Picasso (Málaga, 25 de octubre de 1881-Mougins, 8 de abril de 1973) FUE un pintor y escultor español, creador, junto con Georges Braque, del cubismo.
Here, the preterite is basically required because you defining an entire time period by giving starting and ending dates.
However, even without a specific time period you can say that someone was a teacher or a football player and by using the preterite you emphazize that they are no longer. The this phase of their life is over. You don't have to state the exact length of time. It is also ok to use the imperfect in cases like this.
Can someone explain why: "I was a soccer player for many years" does not work
The Spanish for that would be:
Yo fui jugador de fútbol durante muchos años."
durante emphasizes a time period, while hace + time period, when used with a verb in the preterite translates to "ago"
Ditto. Surely it’s imperfect here? I know certain time phrases changes imperfect to preterite, but I don’t think this is one of them
I would think that using Hacer muchos años suggests that it's perfect tense=i have been a soccer player for many years.
hacer + time period can be used for several different meanings, depending on the verbs used.
Yo fui jugador de fútbol hace muchos años.
I was a soccer player many years AGO.
Yo soy jugador de fútbol desde hace muchos años.
I have been a soccer player for many years. (meaning I still am)
Yo era jugador de fútbol desde hacía muchos años.
I had been a soccer player for many years.
FOOTBALL, soccer is American word, the right and only word is football... American football is a game of padded rugby
Sorry, I spelled football wrong, when I spelled it right, it was accepted :-)