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Of retired soccer players and their health problems

DO you remember Aggrey Lukoye? If you do, then you should also be in a position to know Juma Shabani. But if you don’t remember either of the two men, don’t worry.

This is because when former Tanzania international and Simba Sports Club right fullback, Daudi Salum, asked me whether I remembered the two players, I told him I did not.

But when he jogged my memory over the players, I was not only able to recall them, but my subconscious mind proceeded to provide me with the ‘clips’ of their playing days.It is now my turn to jog your memory.

Both men are former internationals. Lukoye is a Kenyan and was Harambee Stars’ left winger who played for AFC Leopards (then Abaluhya) and Juma Shabani, used to play for Young Africans as a right fullback. Now both players have one thing in common, they have joined the growing rank of disabled after being afflicted by stroke.

However, what is interesting is the way their unfortunate fate has been handled by their two respective soccer national soccer administrations, Football Kenya Federation and TFF. As you read this article, Aggrey Lukoye has had his present disability somewhat ameliorated after FKF stepped in and provided him with a health insurance cover for dealing with his new health state.

And because both players represented their countries in regional and international soccer, they maintained their friendship, through telephone contact, since the days they played for their respective East African countries.

Juma Shabani had his latest status not long ago while Lukoye was afflicted by stroke a few years ago. Knowing what FKF had done for its friend Lukoye, Juma contacted a senior official in the TFF over his problem, wondering if the TFF could do what FKF had done to Lukoye.

And your guess is as good as mine. He is alleged to have been told that the federation could not help him. “After all,” the TFF official is alleged to have said, “you people had good money during your playing days, but you misused it.” And understandably, that statement made Juma livid.

But why? During their playing days, Juma says, they played just for the love of the game. Footballers earned nothing, but peanuts.

In fact, for the few who were recruited to play for Dar es Salaam soccer clubs like Simba, Young Africans and Cosmos. If they were lucky, they were provided employment at the Dar es Salaam port, Tanzania Railways or at the National Insurance Company all of which were state owned. After the TFF official said what he is alleged to have said, Juma has had to struggle with his own family.

Yet the TFF official cannot be blamed for denying Juma assistance for the simple reason that the federation is also assisted, financially, by the Fifa which has its own priorities.

Indeed, when Fifa provide money to soccer federations the world over, the world soccer governing body usually ties such funds to specific use which includes, among others, establishment of infrastructure for catering for the development of the game.

Therefore whatever funds local federations like TFF have, is derived from the share the federation gets from league matches through gate collections (which is inadequate) and administrative fees earned through managing money accruing from sponsorship. Such earnings are therefore not adequate even in dealing with present day soccer administration let alone health problems, and in particular, those that relate to retired players who are in hundreds.

Agreed, the majority of retired Tanzanian internationals are leading horrible lives due to the fact that most of the played at the time when soccer earnings were peanuts.

Therefore helping such players, and in particular, those in dire health problems require efforts that extends beyond retired soccer players, meaning dealing with all retirees and that would require national efforts. However, for a start, it would not do the TFF any harm if they contacted their Kenyan counterparts to find out how they managed to provide Aggrey Lukoye with health insurance cover.

Talking to KFF could help them in learning a thing or two on how they could deal with retired players’ health problems which have afflicted Juma Shabani and others. Going forward, the TFF also need visit clubs and talk to players on why they need to take their contracts very seriously.

They need to impress on these young soccer players, and especially so, those who are contracted as professional players to refrain from life style that drain their hardearned resources as they have very little time to earn whatever money they are earning.

In Europe where professional soccer players are paid handsomely, the majority end their playing career at 35.

Most professional soccer players in Europe are unable to play beyond 35 because of the fast pace and the high demand, in mental and physical ability, required by the modern, beautiful game. But because most of them are highly paid during their playing days, they are able to invest in different avenues and later lead a satisfactory life.

Things are however, quite different in most African countries where, one, the money paid to the so-called professional players is not much, and as if that is not bad enough. Most of them hardly play beyond 30 for a variety of reasons that includes heavy drinking and over engagement with the fairer sex.

Speaking in an interview in a sports programme, called Football Mundial, former Young Africans winger and France’s Monaco, Nonda Shabani said during his days with the Tanzanian soccer giants, there were not less than three players who were far better than him.

However, he said, his colleagues could not get anywhere because most of them were heavily engaged in booze. “One of the players I personally admired his balljuggling skills and who was 24, was already locked in polygamous life. The man had two wives,” said Shabani.

YESTERDAY I took a glance at the latest ...

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Author: ATTILIO TAGALILE

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