We all know there are conversations that need to be had, but we always avoid them, sometimes for the sake of keeping peace or not wanting to muddy the waters. Some look at you as a controversial figure when you raise such issues, while others will admire your brutal honesty, depending on how your views affect them.
Call this a controversial subject that many would fear to tread on, but this has to be said. Loud and clear at that! The thing about uncomfortable truths is that they are nothing new but always something that not many want to engage in. The proverbial elephant in the room, if you will. Sometimes they just have to be said and they just have to be heard. You see, in December last year, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) sidelined 21 highly-rated coaches who didn’t comply with their new coaching licensing requirements, which put a spanner in the works for some of our coaches participating in CAF interclub competitions. This was on the back of CAF issuing a clarion call on all coaches to enroll for the “CAF A” coaching license before the start of the 2020/21 season and that those holding a “Pro License” from a valid sister federation would be exempted. It came as no surprise that there were coaches affected by this rule. Some were from the continent, others Europeans and even Brazilians, but CAF stood their ground on the implementation of their rule. So, without any of the two coaching qualifications, the African football mother body doesn’t want to see you anywhere near your team’s technical area during fixtures under their auspices.
When you look at this rule, you will notice that it is CAF’s systematic approach of sifting chaff from wheat. This is to ensure that qualified coaches… in fact, not just qualified coaches, but those who are in line with CAF’s programmes will be taking charge of the teams participating in CAF’s competitions. If you are proud of being an African, you can’t really argue with that rule because it seeks to protect the African game. It also protects the identity of the African game while ensuring that no ‘plumbers’ will come and infiltrate African football. This is all about coaching and this forms part of the CAF Club Licensing system. Not every football federation has such a stringent rule when it comes to coaching in their particular country, but every federation and league has their club licensing policy. There are rules that govern clubs stipulated by, in our case, South African Football Association (SAFA) and the Premier Soccer League (PSL). Coaches and clubs are two important stakeholders in the Beautiful Game. Can you see where I’m going with this? There is what I would like to refer to as the most important stakeholder that’s not mentioned so far. I’m sure you know who I’m talking about. It is not the supporters. I’m talking about the players.
What are we doing about the players? Can you see that the coaching side of things is now being addressed, gradually so? Obviously there will be teething problems from time to time, but the bottom line is that there’s a concerted effort to improve coaches and coaching in the continent. That protects coaching as a career and African football as a business. If you have these two taken care of, what about the players? They’re definitely lagging behind because the truth of the matter is there is no football without the players. However, the clubs are becoming even bigger institutions, businesses and more sustainable, while coaches have a longer career span than the players. The sad reality is that not all footballers can become coaches after retiring simply because there are very limited opportunities in that space. Once the Beautiful Game has had enough of a footballer, it chucks him completely out of the system and renders him a has-been when it comes to life after football.
Footballers need to empower themselves so that they don’t become a statistic. There’s so much time between training sessions and it boggles the mind why most of our footballers choose to sit idle when there are no club commitments after training, instead of doing something with their time. Chasing after skirts and playing big at the malls, spending money, is not what you should be doing. Work on empowering yourself so that when the curtain comes down on your career, you have something to fall back on. An empowered mind always looks for the ‘birds of a feather’. It never wants to spend most of its time with hangers-on and people who will not enhance it. When you are empowered, your thought-process and decision-making is on another level. Instant fame and gratification become the last thing on your mind because you know there’s more to just being known as a former footballer one day. Young players such as Manchester United striker, Marcus Rashford, are an epitome of an empowered mind. These are people who don’t just limit themselves to being professional footballers but philanthropists and humanitarians as well.
It is time our footballers make the most of the opportunities that come from the Beautiful Game so that, after hanging up their boots, their names remain engraved in the hearts of their supporters and communities instead of becoming a laughing stock. Remember, football isn’t just about fun and games. Making the supporters happy and making your club rich it is also about securing your own bag and preparing for life after football. Together with your agent, make sure that you plan for your life right now instead of asking for favours later on. The more prepared you are, the better chances of you attracting and meeting opportunities in life.
To the current generation of footballers and aspirant professional footballers, you’ve got to take advantage of your career while you still can so that you get something out of it. Clubs are growing, bosses are killing it out there, but most of you, all you have left are memories and nothing more than that. This has to change because there’s no football without you. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming the clubs for their growth and your decline. They will pay you for as long as you are in their employ, the onus is on you to empower yourself however you see fit so that you don’t just become a footballer. Stop thinking about the now but your and your family’s future. You have to catch up so that you have a brighter future because it is sad to see people who have served the game so loyally when they have nothing to fall back on after the career is over. Let’s get our act together, lads, and take a leaf from your Banyana Banyana counterparts. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a Banyana player who doesn’t have a back-up plan in case her career comes to an end.