Football players are loved by all and are literally hero worshipped even if they do not contribute positively to the success of their respective clubs.
Players are all that matters to fans and football administrators alike. This love sometimes blinds them altogether such that they forget that there is life after the football-playing era. But do they need some one to shake them up?
A close look at countries like England, Italy, Germany and even South Africa, will show that yester year stars there are still meaningful to the game of billions. This is either because during their playing days, they took the initiative to plan what would become of them after playing, or that the environment within which they operated was farsighted enough to plan for their welfare after their playing days were over.
Juergen Klinsmann recently led Germany to third place in the FIFA World Cup on home soil. When it came to coaching, the man who used to mesmerize opponents wearing his country’s number 18 jersey was considered by many as raw material because he had never been engaged in coaching at that level before. What made him stand the test is, perhaps, the fact that he had the support of everyone involved with Germany football administration.
Steven Mclaren, who is currently at the helm of the England national team, is another fine example.
Even though he had coached elite league side Middlesborough, with very little success, he was given a nod by the English FA to try his hand at steering the national team to stardom.
None of Germany or England’s former players, even average ones, are near destitute.
Nearer home in South Africa, retired players in the likes of the Patrick “Ace” Ntsoelengoe, Nelson “Tutu” Dladla, the late Thomas “Who is fooling who” Hlongwane, Isaac Shai, Harris “TV4” Choeu, Ryder Mofokeng, Ernest Makhanya and Bashin Mahlangu (the list is endless) are as comfortable as ever. This is to say, even after hanging up their boots, they still earn a living from football.
All the aforementioned South African yesteryear stars, save for Choeu, did not get high formal education.
Just a fortnight ago, the South African Football Association sent two of their brightest yesteryear stars, Doctor Khumalo and Tebogo Moloi, for a coaching course in Germany. In a way, this was to say, “Yes, guys. You have been good players and you can nurture more talented players like you once were.”
In our own backyard, the number of former players surviving from the number one sport is remarkably low. You talk of Stan Tshosane, the former BDF XI striker, who happens to be the current team’s head coach. Oh! ‘Brah Stan’ survives from his wages from the army where he holds the rank of Major.
Notwane’s Banks Panene is another one. We are here referring to a shrewd businessman who would survive quite comfortably without football.
Kempes Ebineng is lucky to have been brought up in a well-to-do family, which valued education. He no longer has anything to do with the game that he, perhaps, just took as a hobby.
Former Centre Chiefs and Zebras right back, Julius “Caesar” Dintwe, was wise enough earlier on and is happy to be in the employ of a leading commercial bank.
Mothusi “Killer” Kooitsiwe did well to hang on to his job at the University of Botswana, despite the hectic schedule of doubling up playing for Centre Chiefs. He has enough food on the table.
One thing that is clear is that most teams and their administrators care about their players only while they are still active.
A visit to one of the local traditional beer sites in Selebi-Phikwe would bring you face to face with Tshwenyego “Carlos” Tawana, a former footballing darling and a man who dazzled all and sundry with his repertioire of skills. Tawana played for Palapye Swallows, Tafic and Gaborone United. He has become synonymous with a pint of Chibuku.
“This is life my friend. Sometimes I feel I was unlucky to be a Motswana. In some countries, players that were by far inferior to me in terms of talent are now rich. I remember very well that I played football about the same time that South Africa’s Doctor Khumalo played. Look at him now and compare him to me,” fumed Tawana.
The former master of the dribble told Sunday Standard Sport that the problem with local football was that the authorities never had time for development.
“We could have helped unearth raw talent that is so abundant in Botswana,” he said. “Our former teams decided to dump us like garbage.”
Another former renowned Tafic utility player, Marcos “Pro” Ramolelo, is a sorry sight in the dusty streets of Bobonong.
“We played football at the wrong time,” said Ramolelo with a tinge of bitterness. “Our colleagues in other countries are now rich from football. The football administrators felt that we were too good during our playing days but that goodness has apparently vanished into thin air. They no longer recognize us. They would rather prefer a foreigner who has no CV.”
In one of the Sunday Standard Sports editions, former Zebras midfield dynamo, Tumi Duiker, cried foul over what he called the football administrators’ lack of respect for the former players.
It is apparently clear, though, that upon being showered with accolades when they are still playing, soccer players completely get blinded to the extent that they do not imagine that one day their playing days would come to an end.
I know of players who turned down permanent and pensionable jobs in the name of loyalty to their respective clubs which, in turn, offered them meager wages, ignoring what would become of the players after their playing days were over.
Just a few months ago, a BCL-sponsored side, Nico United, offered an unemployed Gaborone-based player a permanent job at the mining company in addition to a mouth watering signing on fee. The player rejected the offer in the name of loyalty to his team, which, he thought, would struggle were he to leave. To this day, the player is unemployed.
Township Rollers displayed commendable common sense when they let one of their most prized assets of today, Tshepiso “Sox” Molwantwa, join Notwane because the latter had offered the player a good job. Rollers, it appears, has the best welfare of their players at heart.
But sometimes, the fall of players is of their own making, especially if they depended on the game for their livilihood. Few players are in the game just to pass time.
In sum, players should be seen to be pulling the strings in a bid to define what they want their lives to be when their playing days are over. This can only be done while they are still playing.
The national football governing body, perhaps, must also show confidence in local lads and advise them accordingly. The football association should desist from the unhelpful penchant of always resisting constructive criticism.