What can we do now that club owners seem to be the only beneficiaries of the winds of change in local football? The truth is in three years time, our football will be fully professional. Big sponsors will come to clubs, club owners will benefit handsomely and players should also have a cut in that cake too. There will be no player working somewhere else besides at their club. Let me give you examples.
I have followed soccer in South Africa since the early 90s. Whilst I agree that there have been stars, popular names who dazzled us every week, who dominated papers and mesmerized opposition, who were the pin up poster boys and whose presence could not be ignored, I must hasten to mention that only a few have remained relevant. Most became a statistic. While it is not a debate that Jomo Sono remains the greatest soccer star in South Africa, Doctor Khumalo is the greatest soccer brand in the history of sports in that country. He was able to make millions off the game because of how he projected himself. He was popular, and still remains dear to the millions of soccer fans across the club divide up to today. He won the hearts of corporate South Africa from his debut in 1987 up to today as the face of PUMA.
Shaun Bartlett also benefited a great deal because of his looks and also the way he conducts himself, thus lured corporate South Africa to him with big personal sponsorships. Teko Modise has also been a beneficiary because he was an impact player; he too resonated well with fans particularly kids.
Now there is a player called Morgan Gould who signed with Kaizer Chiefs for a 5 year deal worth R30 million. Morgan Gould is special; he comes from Jomo Cosmos where he quietly acquired experience and ended up at Supersport United where he won three league medals. But what is so special about Morgan Gould is that whilst sponsors find him to be a big asset, he too takes himself seriously. He is a big player physically; everybody will tell you his presence is tangible and he is committed to his work. He is a deeply religious player with incredible humility.
Gould is of mixed race and speaks six local languages; he is articulate, intelligent and respects football. The media respects him and they find no fault in him. The truth is he does not attract bad publicity because he is smart and focused. He separates his private life from his soccer career but is always available to give opinion about the game. The respect he gets from club owners is amazing. Sponsors and influential people are always in awe of his intellect. He does not take things lightly as he knows that the football career is only 10 years long. He is simply a consummate sportsman; a natural leader-par excellence who is also always willing to share advice with colleagues. In the process, Gould amassed wealth from his off the field marketability. He is the face of Adidas amongst others. Apart from the game, he is a professional model and a philanthropist.
Throughout the years, I have never seen a local player as influential as Pontsho Moloi. Pretty much like Teko Modise; you feel Piro whether you like him or not. But I have repeatedly argued with him that he has not used the goodwill of the people towards him; his big name amongst Batswana to lure benefits to himself as a result of his image. He is a dedicated sportsman who has avoided bad publicity throughout his career.
How then do our upcoming youngsters prepare to make money off the field like Itumeleng Khune? How do we replicate the goodwill of sponsors coming in to football because they too want mileage and publicity? Do our stars get inspired by how images have built empires for Usain Bolt and David Beckham? Do our stars know that one cannot make loads of money off the field if they do not perform like superstars?