I read with uttermost dismay the other week the post Seyi Emmanuel Adebayor (SEA), the lanky Togolese International and Tottenham Hotspur forlorn striker wrote on his Facebook page where he made some blistering comments about the closest members of his own family— with mother and siblings all getting a scathing scorecard in the expository account. For an international figure like Adebayor, a one-time African player of the year and a very successful footballer who has played for the biggest clubs in Europe, one would have expected such family matters to be kept within the family circles and expect any crack to remain at a speculation level on the pages of gossip tabloids, but for him to go on and post the milieu on his Facebook page that has almost a million followers, which by extension filtered to the whole football circles and beyond, is an anomaly of some sort. Even then one could sense that he must have reached the Rubicon, so putting it out there for the whole world to see and judge, never mind the ignominy, seemed like the most commonsensical thing to do.
If you are a Caucasian or yours is a culture that is self-sufficient, you may not appreciate what is going on here. How could one be responsible not just for his wife and children, but for his grown up siblings, father and mother and all the people he said he looks after? Should he do all that just because he makes much more than the average Joes that surround him? Well that should not surprise anyone who’s African. Ours is a culture that is akin to the early man. We live in communities— and we are committed to one another. Once you’re rich, you’ve signed up to look after others even if they are old enough to look after themselves. SEA mentioned that he pays for his brother’s children’s school fees! That’s the Africa that I know. You never walk alone and there’s a colloquial language for that: ‘if you chop alone, you go die alone!’
While the culture of giving back and looking after your family and kinsmen is typically an African thing—or by extension, a human thing, especially when you go home with the kind of pay professional footballers go home with, woe betide you if you’re surrounded by sharks! Now, many Africans in diaspora just like SEA would agree with this. They have a responsibility to save the world, save their family from poverty, and saddled with that responsibility, they set out on this mission—go out there and get the sizzling dollars. When they get to the freezing streets of London and New York, they carry along with them the fate of many dependents back home.
But more often than not, while many get what they hope for coming abroad—the basic amenities of life: electricity, shelter, food and all other infrastructures, they’ll have to “earn” a wage and pay for what they enjoy. By the time they deduct their expenses from what’s left—there’s little or nothing left to send back home. But in spite of this hurdle, many still go out of their way to get something across to loved ones—ask the banks who manage money transfer schemes.
Getting back to SEA—the one goof that I have deduced from his vitriol is that he’s handed too much cash to his family and those folks have taken it for granted. And I also sense that SEA is not managing his wealth properly. If you read through the story, Adebayor revealed that he has a house in Ghana worth $1.2 Million and he was surprised when he visited to know that his sister had rented out the house without his consent. The left side of my brain is thinking: ‘How can you tie up $1.2 million property and it’s not yielding cash for you in the first place?!’ And should that kind of property be in the custody of your family members or a reputable property management company? Adebayor also talked about giving lots of money to his parents and siblings and yet they didn’t use it for what they said they would use it for. Why would they when they have an uber rich football star who can reload them with cash at the snap of the finger?
Many Africans living abroad fall for this goof— they send money home to their friends and family and they expect them to help them build a house (very common) or invest in a business. A good number of them get their hands burned and lose their relationships with such tacky arrangements because more often than not, the cash would be used for everything other than what it was allotted for—it’s a no brainer.
Last December, Super Eagles of Nigeria ex-captain and Nigerian international, Sunday Ogochukwu Oliseh gave a talk on titled Education Made the Difference and he shed some light on his life as a footballer—his glittering career, managing his wealth and life after retirement. I believe Adebayor and a lot of people could use the staccato of knowledge he dished out in that one. One day, we would all retire whether we are a super star or an average Joe, living in London or Timbuktu. If we don’t manage our wealth well—we’ll be in for the shock of our lives!
Here are some of the points Oliseh stressed in that talk which can be very useful.
- Plan for Life after retirement: Adebayor and a few African players love to live large—you can’t blame them—they’ve made a lot of money and coming from an indigent background, may be they have the right to wear their worth on their sleeves and over their necks! But that’s beside the point. Oliseh said in that talk that you should plan for life after retirement because your family would still depend on you afterwards. So continue educating yourself and find new ways to add value. For Oliseh, he metamorphosed into a coach, a consultant, Television pundit and a FIFA technocrat.
- Use your lazy time: Oliseh emphasized that footballers have what he calls ‘Lazy time’—when they are not really doing much. I think we all can find our ‘lazy time’ too. He admonishes that you should plug into something useful rather than fritter away time. Read or watch something that would add value to you. In short, enlarge your capacity.
- Don’t give money to your family members! This is the one I love! Don’t just throw the cash at your family, set them up in business. Don’t give them fish, teach them how to fish!
- Save! Save!! Save!!! The former Juventus and Ajax midfielder stressed that you are as rich as what you save, especially when you make a lot of money like footballers do (or maybe when you make less… I add!).
I hope we all learn a thing or two from this and make the right choices!
O.P. Philips is a freelance writer/entrepreneur. He is the author of The “OBAMA” in You! His new book, “What Football Teaches About Life” will be released soon.