Young and aspiring African footballers make some crucial mistakes as they seek opportunities to get a professional deal. So, in this piece, you’ll know these mistakes and learn how to avoid them.
Well, before going further, I should tell you a little about myself. My name is Umar Yusuf Hussain, a non-pro footballer who represents a local team in West Africa.
Most Football fans in Africa dream of becoming professional footballers, and playing in front of thousands of fans, but only a few make it to the professional level.
Averagely, only about 30 – 40% (of football trialists) will get a professional contract. How many aspiring footballers from Africa even get the opportunity of a Trial?
Not many. According to Business Insider, only about 0.012% of kids in the UK become a Premier League Pro. Although this is a UK stat, it can be similarly applicable to Africa.
These players have done wonders in Europe. Some of these African stars are Roger Milla, Jay-Jay Okocha, Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Riyad Mahrez – all of whom are some of Africa’s most decorated footballers.
So, if for any reason you’ve not actualized your dream of signing a professional contract (yet), do not give up. Take your time to learn the five (5) mistakes aspiring African footballers make, then learn how to avoid them.
1. Dropping out of School
This is the most common mistake aspiring African footballers make. They stop going to school just to focus on football. Well, you can study and still play football.
All you have to do is balance education and training, and join the school team. By joining the school team, you’re announcing your talent to the school.
I’ve seen a lot of African footballers who stopped their education and also didn’t make it to the professional level.
I’ve also seen African footballers who had dreams of becoming pro but it didn’t work out and now they are graduates of universities.
What’s the point here? Knowing that it is incredibly difficult (not impossible) to become a professional footballer, a solid education is your perfect backup plan.
In essence, you can and should chase your football dream while getting the best education you possibly can.
2. Money over Passion
The main reason a lot of African players want to play football is because of money.
Of course, money is important in many aspects of today’s life. But if you are passionate about football you might make less money at the beginning of your career as compared to others.
However, you will be happy with everything about football if you’re passionate about it.
Then, no matter how many obstacles you might have to face, you will face them with courage, dedication, commitment, and determination.
Passion will not give you immediate results. But in the long run, you will be happy with whatever you do. The most important thing is to develop yourself.
In a nutshell, do not let money be your major priority for wanting to play football professionally. Let love and passion drive you naturally, then money may be your second priority.
Consider Reading: The Best Football Academies in Europe
3. Mistaking Football For a Get-Rich-Quick Scheme
Football is not a get-rich-quick scheme. You might have seen how successful footballers live luxurious lifestyles, don’t be blinded by that.
They all had their struggles. There’s a lot of hard work, patience, and determination behind their wealth. You have to work hard to get to that level.
What you don’t see often online are stories of many (aspiring or semi-pro) footballers who never made it.
If you’re passionate about football and improving yourself, in the long run, you’ll start making a lot of money. But you have to be prepared for challenges and learn to improve yourself every day!
Consider Reading: How Football Contracts Work
4. Getting Scammed By Agents
Thanks to technology, it’s now easier to get a team to sign you by posting your video highlights on YouTube or sending them directly to the club.
However, only a few footballers get a club by doing this. The easiest and commonest way to get with a pro team is through a football agent.
The agent advertises you to his contacts and gets you a contract. But the sad part is that a lot of players have been scammed by fake football agents, especially in Africa.
A real agent will never demand money to get you a club. Unfortunately, a lot of players still pay agents to find them a club. About 99% of the time, this doesn’t end well.
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A real agent will take the time to get to know you, discuss your career plans and your desires, and much more.
A genuine agent will generally do this by meeting you in person. An agent who doesn’t want to meet you personally, or demands money should make you very suspicious.
There are a lot of ways to spot fake agents, but whenever you’re contacted by an agent, make sure you meet him/her in person.
Also, do a lot of research on the agent by verifying how many players he/she is managing.
5. Reduction of Age
Africa has the most cases of age fraud in the football world. In fact, this is one of the reasons why African teams are yet to win the World Cup despite triumphing regularly at youth competitions.
A lot of players have been caught in Europe for falsifying their age and ultimately ending their careers. This is one of the worst things ever to happen to a footballer’s career.
Players reduce age because it is very difficult to get the chance of fulfilling their dream abroad as a young lad. Sometimes, it takes so long to get the opportunity and by then they are too old.
So, they have to reduce their age, maybe by 10 years or fewer.
A lot of African players have been banned because of this.
But do not be shy about using your real age in football trials. If you’re really passionate about football and ready for it, then age is just a number you can still get a pro contract.
The story of Junior Messiahs who made his debut at age 27, should strengthen you. Nevertheless, you could find out why age fraud is common in Africa.
Consider Reading: The Most Talented Injury-Prone Footballers Ever
It takes a lot to become a pro footballer than you can imagine. You need to be really determined and be ready for anything football has to offer.
Don’t just sit at home and expect offers, you need to develop yourself, look for challenges, and attend football trials. Remember, hard work pays.
Finally, avoid the common mistakes that aspiring African footballers make. Cheers to your success.