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The African Player - Ali's Words

As every coach will tell you, Africa is the land of gold, diamonds, and the most valuable natural resources—talented footballers. The prototypical footballer is in Africa: big, tall, strong and focused. But unfortunately, not many make the cut.

I have worked with many players from the continent, and their aptitude for learning and dedication to improvement is spectacular. However, it is a sad story that despite the focused approach of a player and their keenness to learn and train, they are rarely on the right track. One major reason is that football is extremely popular in almost all African countries, and EVERYONE plays it! This means that everyone knows someone who is exceptional at it and someone who can help—so everyone and their aunt is a coach, scout, and agent.

The lack of a system, despite the popularity, means that, more often than not, youngsters fall prey to scams promising them a seat at a club. What surprises me is that while everyone knows that there are fraud agents and fake documents, they are also ready to hand over money to a smooth-talking taxi driver. As a coach to a few players who have faced such scams, let me tell you—it is not the lack of education; it is the lack of access to opportunities that drives the desperation of youngsters in African countries. We are astounded by the volley of queries we get from people who are ready to send players to Dubai because it is a business to send players out without any plan (or concern) for their future. I hope that we see a change in the approach of the players, from desperation to careful consideration of all eager guides. Also, I look forward to coaches and institutions rising up to the occasion and creating reliable, legal, and safe opportunities for players to compete and grow.

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