Life skills needed for our football stars

HARARE - One thing that Togo captain Emmanuel Adebayor endeared himself to the public most during the recently-ended African Nations Cup was controversy and his outspoken nature.

Yes, the gangling striker was one of the outstanding players and a driving force for his side that reached the quarterfinals of the South Africa Orange Afcon 2013 tournament but his petulant behaviour also came to the fore.

The Tottenham Hotspurs forward said some not-so-good comments about the Mbombela pitch which was understandably damaged by the ravaging rains in that part of the world extending into Mozambique’s Gaza Province. Mpumalanga borders with Mozambique’s Gaza Province and that part of the world is normally wrecked by torrential floods around this time, normally displacing thousands of families.

That he called the pitch an embarrassment to African football is now history but one thing that should be noted is that such statements came from a player who used to play in pitches whose grass is grazed by the goats before the soccer game.

Soccer pitches in West Africa, let alone Lome, are some of the most horrible grounds on earth and for Adebayor to have the audacity to call Mbombela pitch an embarrassment goes beyond reason.

But that is how the maverick striker has shaped his career; temperamental, haughty and controversial.

To prove that controversy always follows him, the volatile forward was fined by his club when he
returned to his English Premiership side after overstaying in Togo instead of returning to the cold London soon after his country had been knocked out of the Afcon tournament.

Adebayor’s behaviour is not very peculiar to African stars, most of who grow from poverty but change their way of living after striking it rich. No wonder most them normally plunge back into poverty after their playing days because they have little life skill training to prepare them for the sudden fame.

Some spend their savings by living on the fast lane with beautiful women, fast cars and with no need to save for the future.

How many times have we heard about former African footballers living in abject poverty a few years after hanging up their boots? Yet, these are men who used to earn millions in a year and who with a bit of acumen, could have completely changed lives of their families and next of kin.

There is an ongoing story of a Zambian player who only a few years ago, was raking in dollars from Saudi Arabia but who is now literally living in the streets of Lusaka.

We all know what happened to Super Eagles striker, Rashidi Yekini, who died a pauper despite playing soccer with some of the best sides in Portugal and Europe.

Here in Mzansi, there are also classic examples of players who used to bank millions every month but who have since moved back to the townships to stay with their parents.

Others have died of epidemic diseases, a sign of poor mentorship.

Back home in Zim, there are well-documented stories of how most of our stars have resorted to drinking as a way of drowning their sorrows and trying to escape from the harsh reality.

This is usually an indictment of most African soccer players.

They cannot cope with sudden fame and fortune.

During good days, they live on another planet and only come back and down to earth at the end of their careers. And in most cases it is too little and too late.

While it has a lot to do with societal upbringing, it also has a lot to do with one’s will.

The fact that soccer is a short-lived career is a reality that has been hummed over and over again but it looks like players conveniently ignore it while the going is still good.

At the rate he is courting controversy, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the same fate has befallen Adebayor a few years down the line.

I might be wrong but the guy strikes me as a person full of himself and who does not imagine the world coming to an end. - Tinotenda Panashe

*Panashe is our South African-based columnist. He can be contacted by e-mail at

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