How can I help if I’m not wanted? How can I help if I’m not asked to?
The questions are asked rhetorically, sometimes in different languages but continually remain the same – Ex African professional footballers bemoaning their lack of involvement in the national side post their playing careers. At times the words are those of a retired pro who’s mismanaged his money and is seeking a new source of income, on other occasions it’s a case of playing lip service with them having no real desire of getting involved, but the majority of times its genuine disappointment at not being able to pass on what they know onto the next generation, unfortunately many don’t do enough to address this.
Blame is always attributed to men at the national associations (or the suits who often have little footballing experience between themselves and are content with keeping things that way) We’re all aware of the many issues which stem from the top and have persistently presented a problem to the continent’s game. However it’s all too easy criticising without taking action and the same problems will persist if those on the outside don’t attempt to get in and fight it. And herein lies my argument, a great enough effort isn’t made by those former same professionals who complain.
Why don’t they offer themselves to their associations/federations? It’s not begging for a role it’s being patriotic, as they’re not serving these governing bodies but their countries. And although it may be deemed unconventional attaining a job in such fashion if it is what is required then so be it. Compare it to the way business operates, if you supply a product or service you are expected to go out, market and attempt to sell it to prospective buyers not the other way round.
Whilst in South Africa I watched Ghana’s third place playoff defeat to Mali on Supersport. On the panel were Ruud Guillet, former Ghanaian and Nigerian internationals Sammy Kauffor and Sunday Oliseh. Kauffor who was livid by the Black Stars’ defending was asked by Guillet why the Ghanaian football association didn’t get him on board to help with coaching. The suggestion was endorsed by Oliseh who went to claim that ‘it’s one of African football’s problems’. Both men were fine footballers and are equally adept in their punditry roles but again if they feel they have something to offer then do so. Of course that doesn’t provide any guarantees but it offers somewhere to start. And even in the case of rejection there are still so many other areas in our game that require growth. I have to the utmost respect for them but that doesn’t mean which doesn’t mean their immune from criticism and in this case their words contradict their actions.
The argument was addressed by Kristen Nematandani, president of the South African FA. In an interview conducted by Osasu Obayiuwana on Footballisafrica.com he was made aware of similar criticism levelled against his organisation by former South African captain Neil Tovey to which he responded,
I want to put a challenge to South Africans and to our former players – what are you doing in your own little corners? That’s where it starts… You can’t build a nation by being a spectator. You must play your part, wherever you are… It is out of these small corners that you begin to see the difference. That is what matters, rather than just talking
Before later adding,
I am saying that wherever you are, someone must take the initiative. Who is the South Africa Football Association? Every South African… I will ask former players: Out of 24 hours, how much time do you dedicate to putting something back into football?
Perhaps they don’t have the desire to fight. Not to target these individuals but in their case they are they are well received by their audience so why would they opt out of their roles to go somewhere they may not feel as welcomed. Many would then point to Kalusha Bwalya as president of the Zambian football association and highlight how well embraced he’s been, viewing their own position even more disheartening. Unfortunately as in any walk of life things aren’t all the same.
I’m not suggesting that Nematandani’s words should be taken at face value, as they could easily do more to encourage former pros. But you can’t disregard what he has said and it raises the question of how many other associations share the same views. Again we’ll only find out the validity of it if the ex pros decide to do something. After all action always beats inaction.