Day of the African footballer to rule has come
I am very excited and agitated at the same time. There is so much playing around my mind that I will really make an effort to make some sense of it all in this piece today.
First, my excitement.
In the next few weeks Africa will be celebrating a brand new African Player of the year. It is going to be either Mohamed Salah of Liverpool FC and Egypt, or Victor Moses of Chelsea FC and Nigeria. Either way a new king shall rule African football for the next one year.
Exciting as that is, it is dwarfed by what is happening to three past winners of the same award at the moment.
They present hope for good and progressive governance in Africa and a bright future for the Black race all over the world.
Usually, for some strange and undefined reason, high profile footballers either never think about political office after their careers or never get the essential support needed to seek for office within the corridors of football administration and national politics.
George Opong Weah is about to rewrite that outdated script. The only African player to win the African, European and World Footballer of the year awards in the same year is about to become the President of his country, Liberia.
In order to venture into partisan politics and to seek the highest office in the land, George became a leader in his country, funding various projects within his local community and also at national level including bearing the astronomical cost of the participation of his national team in many international competitions, offering scholarships to the youths, supporting several poverty reduction projects, and being an advocate for the cessation of the civil war that devastated and ravaged his country for many years.
The Liberian people saw him as a true leader by acknowledging and appreciating him beyond his football exploits, his global achievements and humanitarian works, and hearkened to his call to become their political leader. But for Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s intervention at the time, even without the essential solid educational foundation to lead a devastated country like Liberia, he would have won the elections 10 years ago by a landslide.
2018 is now here.
George has gone back to school and obtained the academic qualifications and knowledge required, and is now ready to lead not just his country, but join the new global struggle of the Black race for respect, equity, true freedom from mental and physical enslavement, and justice in the world.
That’s why it is likely he becomes the next President of Liberia. Samuel Eto Fils is another African player of great international repute, a three-time winner of Africa’s most prestigious individual football award, a player so good he played alongside Lionel Messi in the greatest team, probably, in the history of football – FC Barcelona. He won European and African awards for his exploits in the best European clubs as well as his country’s national team.
Whilst in Barcelona, he was so good that Lionel Messi described him as the best centre-forward of that generation in the world.
His conduct and actions on the field of play at a time earned him a global reputation. His story in a match between Barcelona and Zaragoza in the La Liga remains etched forever in the conscience of the world.
Following ‘monkey’ chants by the racist home fans of Zaragoza FC every time he had the ball, in anger and frustration, Eto decided to walk out of the field in protest despite entreaties by his sympathetic team mates to continue the now halted match. Even the centre-referee appealed to him to remain, complete the match and shame the distractors. He refused.
It was his coach that met him by the side of the field and told him that leaving the field would change nothing, but playing well despite the distractive chants and defeating his ‘enemies’ would change everything by shutting them up! That’s exactly what happened. He returned to the field, scored one of the goals FC Barcelona scored that evening in burying Zaragoza in an avalanche of 4 goals. Eto’s was the sweetest! The chanting racist supporters were shut up!
Since that incident Eto learnt a great lesson in how to deal with racists and has become a global ambassador of Black Africans fight against global racism.
The third player I was referring to at the start of this column is a ‘god’ in his native Cote d’Ivoire. A multiple winner of the African Player of the year award also, and one of the greatest strikers in the history of European football, Didier Drogba, stands like a Colossus in Ivory Coast. His story outside the field of football is the stuff of legends.
In 2005, after five years of a bloody Civil War that had ravaged Cote D’Ivoire, wasted thousands of lives and made the country a destitute nation with unending political crisis and a crippling economy, Didier Drogba led his country’s national team to qualify for the 2006 World Cup.
This was at a period when the same country had gone ‘mad’ with brothers senselessly killing and maiming each other as a result of political differences that escalated and degenerated to the extent of starting the bloodiest war in the history of the country.
On the day the team qualified for the World Cup Drogba seized the opportunity to address his countrymen and women. In the dressing room in front of national television cameras that had come to cover the celebrations amongst the victorious players, Drogba went on knees and with his team mates behind him, appealed to his country’s leader, President Gbabo, to end the war, and to his countrymen and women to bury the hatchet and stop the wanton killings and destruction of lives and property so that the people can celebrate and enjoy the victory of their ambassadors – the Elephants.
One week after that appeal for peace the five years old war was halted by the warring armies.
There could have been no greater demonstration of love for Ivory Coast’s greatest ambassador. The people’s positive response to him is a manifestation of their love and respect for him. In that West African country, Drogba is a king.
He has been extending his good fortune to the needy, and supporting good causes amongst the under-privileged in Cote d’Ivoire, particularly the children and youths through education, skills acquisition and development, and other work, health and wealth creation projects. This past week he has been at the joint European Union and African Union summit holding in Abidjan cutting his teeth in international diplomacy.
If Eto and Drogba are not considering it yet, the recent developments in neighbouring Liberia, where George is converting all the virtues and values that football inculcated in him – discipline, team work, patience, dedication, passion, the winning spirit, conquering failure, using the power of football to fight global causes including racism, disease and illiteracy – should wake them up to the present opportunities available to them to present themselves a new kind of leadership of the Black race from their countries!
There lies my agitations.
It is very clear that all Black African nations on earth have failed through their previous leaderships to uplift the Black person from the dungeons of economic, cultural, social and even religious enslavement.
Sport, along with other art forms, has provided one of the few level playing fields for the Black race to showcase, compete, excel and even surpass the rest of mankind. Sport has produced leaders with the mindset of equality, decency and the winning attitude that can be transferred to the political terrain as these three African football legends have amply demonstrated through their works in the arena of sports.
George Opong Weah has kick-started what can become a revolution of the mind and of politics in Africa.
I can see that simple whirlwind become a tornado that can sweep across most of the continent in the future and impacting on the Black race like nothing else in history.
The day of the African footballer is just around the corner.
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