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Very raw take

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With Madalitso Musa:

In 2001 when Dumisani Ngobe returned to South Africa from Turkey where he had stints with Gençlerbirliği and Ankaragücü, two tops teams in South Africa, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, wanted to sign him. Before going to Turkey, Dungi, as he is fondly called, had been a loyal Pirates player and it was likely that Pirates would be his first option. But when asked which team he would play for, Ngobe said, “I will play for any team that will pay me better because at my age I will not play football for long and I need to make money while I am still wanted.” In 2001 Dumisani Ngobe was 28 years old, an age that players in Malawi play for the Under-20.

Eighteen years later, Ngobe’s stark response continues to resonate in me. nine years ago, I had a dalliance with Big Bullets. Since I had to combine my work and football one of my two beloved careers had to suffer. I had dabbled with the idea to quit my job and concentrate on football. When I made the decision known to people close to me, everyone was up screaming at me thinking I had gone bonkers to think of quitting my job for a career that only lasts 12 years if you are good enough, and after those 12 years the rest of your life is that of a pauper. I rescinded my decision. Today, I believe the decision to quit the pitch for the newsroom was good because not many players have been fortunate to live a decent life after years of plastic fame and glory.

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Sometime back, one of my former teammates used to come to my workplace almost every pay day to ask for financial push. But this was a guy who, in his prime played for big team including the national team. But this good friend I am referring to is just a fine example of the path football players and artists take.

When I was still playing, one of my teammates would introduce me to a different girlfriend when we travelled. If he was not talking about football, then it was about how many women he had taken to bed and how many spliffs he had puffed. Ask me where he is now. Come Tuesday on training day, the guy was so broke even to have money for bus fare.

I must say it without mincing words that I get annoyed with the complaints of former footballers or artists that the country leaves them to their destitution. If at all the players have to complain about is how stupid they were not to negotiate for better contracts while they were still useful. The government has too many problems to attend to and looking after people who messed up their finances at their peak must never be one of them.

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Right now, I am in my productive years and I offer my services to Times Group and the company pays me in return. I would be silly after working for 30 years to expect the company to continue paying me when I am not working for it. Players and artists must be told in no uncertain terms that what they have is a career and they must be responsible for what they will do after retirement. I know of people who have had successful playing careers and after their legs could no longer carry them, they traded the pitch for the reclining office chairs. This is because they had an education. But our players and artists think we owe them a living after their careers. How silly.

Unlike me who works behind closed doors and my work is only seen after publication, you and I even have to pay to watch footballers and artists working for their own livelihoods. So why should we continue paying their bills after we have been paying just to watch them?

I have no qualms assisting someone whose career was cut short because of misfortune of sickness or injury, but I have serious problems paying for someone who had a full career but all he knew were prostitutes, chamba, gambling, alcohol and all those slow suicide methods.

This culture of expecting people to pay for our mistakes is exactly what is dragging the progress of individuals as well as the country. People believe someone owes them a living and it is automatic to get help. Instead of waiting until they become frail and to start blaming everyone for their pathetic state, players and artists must start demanding enough to keep them going even after their careers. Some can learn other trades which they can pursue post short-term careers.

I must say again that it is sickening to be reading former football players and artists blaming the world for abandoning them. I refuse to glorify the culture of helping people who messed up when they had all the chances in the world. This is my very raw take.

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