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Friday, 21 January, 2000, 14:51 GMT
Is Europe stealing Africa's best players?

More than half of the footballers taking part in the African Cup of Nations now play in leagues overseas and agents will be out in force in Nigeria and Ghana hoping to sign up the next Gearge Weah or Nwankwo Kanu.

Is this exodus of Africa's most promising players good for the development of football in the continent? What are the prospects for footballers who don't become top stars?

Could this trend harm Africa's chances of hosting or winning a future World Cup?

Or does a European move give players the chance to develop into world-class performers on more demanding stages than Africa football can offer.

Fifa President Sepp Blatter made his feelings known shortly before the start of the tournament in Accra when he said clubs should not be allowed to sell promising young players below a set minimum age.

"It is time to fight against the exodus of young players from Africa," he said.

Nigeria and South Africa now demand bonds to be paid by top clubs wishing to sign young stars. Is this a sensible precaution that all African countries should follow?

The issue borders on the state of the economy and that of the local league. It is to the country's benefit that the players are exposed to international soccer, as Africa had not advanced in the World cup in the early 1970s and 80s, when we did not have foreign based professionals.
Chukwudi Nwokoye, Nigeria

With so many players in the world, Europe does not need players from Africa. It is the players greed, in terms of finance and notoriety, that draws them to play their football in Europe, no one forces them. This is also true of most players that play in Europe, so often they go to the club that offers the most money.
Felix, UK

African Nations should export their talents where they can be most appreciated. This helps the individual player not only to conquer his poverty but also have a chance to repatriate some foreign exchange back to his home country. The National FA's should charge handsome amount for transfer fees to help develop local talents and improve on infrastructure for the development of the game.
Sadik Ahmed, Nigeria

I would like to see the larger European clubs building longer term relationships with African clubs so that both can learn and benefit. If you took a town in every country in Africa and linked them into an Ajax-style training program via schools, then had a structure for the kids to progress to league football and possibly a move to Europe, you have given back a lot more than just a couple of million in transfer fees. I think this ability to offer help where local African leagues have 'gaps' should be recognised by the big European clubs, not as a PR exercise but as good for the sport. And it doesn't need to be restricted to Africa of course.
Matt Greenslade, UK

The soccer world is becoming smaller and smaller. I encourage African players to go to Europe to bridge the gap of football standards. Until strong leagues are created in Africa, there is no way of raising the standard, other than playing abroad.
Akonyu Akolo, Vancouver, Canada

I believe it is a good idea for the improvement of soccer for the Africans, but it also reduce the chance of poor Africans who want to make their living by playing soccer. I think it will be wise to leave it as it is since Africans don't pay their players much.
L. Chris Logan, Liberia

We have been talking about globalisation of everything; so this is the real example. African talent are needed in oversees leagues because of their value and style. This export brings very positive things. The 1996 soccer gold medal won by Nigerians (not to say Africans) was a living tribute to this trade. So, if one young player is able to attract the eyes of a European coach, I think that he should work hard to go; because he will bring happiness to his fellow Africans as Nigerians did in 1996.
Claudin F.N., Canada/ Cameroon

Let's look at it the other way around; forget for a moment whether African players should play in Europe, rather let's examine the effect the import of such players is having on European teams and players - Chelsea is a sorry team to watch now!
Howard, Canada

The African players have over time proved critics wrong. Naturally there is a tendency for a professional to think in terms of going to greener pastures. However teams in Europe, South America etc should not excessively exploit the players.
Oluyemi Adebola, Nigeria

I think the African national sides can only benefit from their players playing in Europe. The problem with African football is that there is no money in their club structure so holding onto their players becomes impossible. Still, doesn't do the Norwegian national side any harm does it? Virtually all of them play in the Premiership!
David, UK

The most talented people in all professions move to where they can improve their skills and make more money. Why should football players be any different? If they play at a higher level they'll improve which can only be good for their national team. Nobody is suggesting sending all the Scandinavians or the Irish back to play in their own sub-par leagues so why the Africans.
Neil, USA

Look at Brazil, they have been exporting players for decades and it hasn't harmed them, similarly with Argentina. The difference is those countries had established clubs and formidable national teams before the great influx of money into the game.
Snurr Rigaardsson, St Helena

I played in an International U19 tournament ten years ago that included teams from Nigeria and Ghana. Both teams reached the Quarter-Finals but only lost when it rained. This was due to the players only having flat trainers and not boots. They tried to swap what little they had for a pair of my boots. I gladly gave away a pair of spare boots for nothing. Africa has long been the new world of soccer and should be used as a new resource for the wealth of talent.
Duncan Goodfellow, UK

The fundamental reason for this issue is that, the majority of African leagues are under-funded and substandard, and inter-countries teams are still in FIFA's lower ranking. We need to work hard to reach European league level.
Magdi Widaatalla, Sudanese residing in Canada

They can earn more money in Europe and there talent will be noticed. One day when they retire they can help their fellow African footballers.
Jurgen, Germany

The exodus of African players has not diminished the development of soccer in the continent. To the contrary, TV and new technologies has lead to increase the level of play in Africa - native players acquire new skills and style by watching their exiled local heroes. International exposure to the global soccer village bodes greatly for increased performance in Africa.
Ike Nwagbo, USA

No doubt, Nigerians and other African players have shown their ability to be pearls wherever they are. We look at players such as my boys Kanu, Okocha, and the likes of them and we thank God for their talent. I believe this has been as a result of their experience in a larger and more competitive environment. No doubt, our boys have a lot of talent but they still need some form of refining and the truth is that, most African nations cannot provide this environment.
'Femi, Nigerian, USA

The opportunities are undoubtedly better elsewhere, and this is why the African footballers are choosing to ply their talents abroad. Experience of different leagues and styles is likely to increase the experiences of the squads and leads to more all-round accomplished playing abilities, as well as enliven the foreign leagues with players such as Nwankwo Kanu.
Michael Cook, England

A man that cannot defend his family, has no family. A teacher that cannot protect the welfare of his/her students, is an impostor. A country that cannot protect her citizens has no legitimacy of claim over them. Africa has lost a legitimate claim over her citizens, including the legion of foreign players long before now.
Raphael Njoku, Nigeria

Why shouldn't Africans play in Europe, look at what Denmark did for the Euro Championships in '92, they sent all their players abroad to learn how to play different styles and then won the tournament!
Steve, UK

Of course African footballers should be allowed to return to Africa to play in the tournament. If a team can do well for their country then the chances are that it will bring about a sense of well being and celebration for the African people. More to the point though, how would Europeans feel if their players weren't allowed to play in Euro 2000 because big clubs felt it would harm them or risk injury?
Paul Leeming, UK

Isn't what George Weah has done for Liberian football enough for an example? Their national side may not have made their international break-through yet, but at least Europeans have been given a change to see them play thanks to Mr. Weah's efforts and Italian lire's!
Jubinho, Finland

We are unable to pay the players the kind of money they are earning in their clubs in Europe and elsewhere. Players only have a certain period to reach their peak and reap the benefits; they are not machines. Their feet and skills are their assets, let them use them for whoever is ready to pay for it. In any case, we need them to go away so that others can be found. We need them to counsel others so those mistakes are not repeated.
Eric Odanga, Kenya

I think this is merely a part of a much wider issue. If there were limits, common to each country, to the number of foreign players a team could field in all the FIFA countries. Then each country would be able to develop its home-grown talent, National teams would be stronger, and Africa would not be seeing such an erosion of its talent to Europe or anywhere else.
Tony Bousfield, Canada

These players should play anywhere in the world, where they can develop their talent and make a decent living. Let us be realistic, it is because of the hardship at home that drove many of us abroad. It is silly for Nigeria and South Africa to demand foreign clubs to pay bond on our top players. Many Africans will rather stay in their respective countries if the condition at home is conducive for them.
Francis Abagi, Nigeria

I think that Africa is being robbed of their most valuable assets to European countries. But we should be realistic as to the fact that some of these players come out of poverty and are looking at the opportunity as the only way of means to look after and care for their family.
Wesley, Namibia

The alternative to the 'mighty $' or 'hard currency' will stop the event, otherwise it will always be the case!
Charles Kawooya, Ugandan, in UK

It is clear that African football players have incredible talent. It is also clear that Europe has the best environment. As long as the players report to their duties for their country and clubs release them in time, it is fine.
Anjan Chhetry, South-African Canadian

At the end of the day, one has to blame the various African federations for not providing the right environment. The so-called professional leagues are a joke. If the overall system is organised we will not be having this debate.
Deno, Nigeria/ USA

I don't see it as stealing, the players aren't complaining and the national teams surely benefit from the coaching and experience the players gain from playing in Europe. Also these players are able to secure their families future financially thanks to their move. Yes, their home leagues might suffer, but I believe that national teams such as England's suffer more from this influx of foreign players as their own youth are overlooked for cheaper, finished products overseas.
Stuart, UK

It is every African footballer's dream to come to Europe to play so I think there should be no red tape on the part of any African country to deprive them of that opportunity; but I think the European teams also have a responsibility of releasing them on time for national assignments.afterall everybody should have the chance to utilise his talent for his own benefit.Also football will be poorer if natural talent is not allowed to be shown on the world stage which unfortunately Europe provides but Africa cannot.
Eric Aboagye, UK

This question is similar to the issue of African professionals abroad. This is a time of travel for the Africans as was once for the Europeans. Every footballer should be allowed to go wherever he wishes and have his talents developed. The more intense competition in Europe and elsewhere often brings out the best in them than their couterparts at home.
Dr M U Adikwu, Germany

I think that we should have no more than 3 foreign players per team in the English leagues anyway. Also that international duty is mandatory if you are selected, with NO club interference - that being the price for being paid millions to kick a ball around and the price to the clubs for importing so-called 'better talent' from overseas. If the African nations recall their players, then let them play in the competition.
Paul Charters, England

I believe that it should be encouraged by leading and experienced football clubs to buy potential players to play in their clubs as in many African countries there is hardly any managers that can provide such training. For example, the players of the Nigerian team that won the USA '94 Olympics consisted of experienced players from foreign clubs. Many football playing Nigerians dream of playing for either foreign clubs or the national teams as they feel there are no home teams were they could develop their talents.
Esther , English Nigerian

I think Europe should stop stealing African players. Africans are good at football, but European clubs hire them at very low costs, these costs maybe tempting to the players, from the poorest African countries, because they don't stand a chance making that much money in their own country.
Ahmed, Egypt

I differ in opinion regarding what many call an exodus or stealing by Europeans of African talent. This should not have any adverse effect on quality of our games. In any case, Africans especially the bureaucrats should be more concerned about the quality and results of our game instead of concentrating on one Kanu (Arsenal) or Weah (Chelsea). Soccer bureaucrats in Africa should design strategies not just bonds that must help us transform this wealth of talent into results.
Kisuze Stephen, Uganda

Football makes the world go round. It is every footballer's dream to play for their dream teams and that is where the money seems to be - in Europe! So don't blame anyone for it. If the players' are good then they deserve the recognition and the rewards that go with it. Eventually, the beneficiary is the country that they come from.
Elan, Singapore

Professionalism should be seen as international concept. Scientists, educators and other professionals should freely operate internationally for the obvious benefits for both the individual and the nations involved. The numerous expatriates from Europe, the United States and Japan working in African countries render their expertise for the benefit of the Africa and for the individual compensation. Soccer stars should be seen in that light. International exposure is also beneficial to these professionals. African nations should not let emotions over-ride the benefits of international professionalism.
Dr. Joseph U. Igietseme, USA

What Nigeria and South Africa are proposing is nothing short of African governments conspiracy to hold their people in bondage. The constitution of these two countries guarantees freedom of movement and pursuit of happiness for their citizens. Since Africa can not provide this happiness and sometimes even depriving them of using their God given and hard earned talent, these footballers have every reason to follow their dreams where ever it takes them.
Cillaty Daboh, USA

It's very unfortunate that sport authorities in Nigeria and South Africa are requesting for the 'so-called' bond. They need to shed more light on whose interest they are protecting. Definitely not the players. Africa can only win the World Cup if we continue to expose our 'raw 'players.
Anthony Olukoju, Bahamas

People please lets be realistic. Why should we deny these promising young athletes a chance to earn a decent living and provide for their families in ways they could never do if playing for a local league. Truth be told until football has developed and commercialised itself on the continent and players get paid WELL, there is no chance of keeping them home. (I know I would not stay and play for peanuts.)
Danlami Gomwalk, Nigerian in USA

At this point in time, I'm opined to say that most African countries lack the nurturing environment for these athletes to thrive. Granted that making a choice between individual rights and national pride appears to be difficult, in this scenario, the athletes must be allowed an unencumbered right to continue to make the decision.
Dr. C. Voke Abobo, USA

It is very unfortunate that civilised nations are taking advantage of developing countries. Just because the have a lot of money that they can pay to these players. This has a very negative impact on the development of sports on the continent. It is robbing the continent of her talented people, the way slave trade did
Hilary Binta, USA

World-class players such as Nwankwo Kanu and George Weah deserve to play top class football with the top teams in the world. There simply isn't the class of competition in Africa for them to compete at that level. The Africans playing in Europe will do more for the African game in Europe where they will get publicity which will give the rest of the world the impression of African football which they want the world to see, than staying in Africa where it will virtually go unnoticed. If they stay in Africa they can only reach a certain level, they can reach a higher level with the bigger and better teams.
Tezza, UK

African players playing abroad is a welcome development. The leagues in Africa are under-funded and substandard, the necessary facilities are not available. Even national teams train abroad before major competitions for optimal result. What we need is serious planning and adequate funding. FIFA has rules that protect the players and their countries. Most African players who have become successful achieved their success from abroad, those that stayed behind never made it big.
Ade Omo-Adetunji, UK

The contracting of African players for European clubs is a classic exposure and financial advancement for the players. Staying in Africa wouldn't give these players the exposure and cash that they have and make in Europe. My only advice to the European clubs is to set up a program where the clubs these players are taken from are helped financially and logistically.
Sylvester Kabakole, Liberia/ residing in the U.S.

The exodus of African footballers to the European Continent and beyond is a double-edged sword. If this problem were to be genuinely solved by all those concerned - mainly we Africans, we need first to have the security issues of the continent resolved. How else would George Weah be able to ply his trade in his homeland. Secondly, the economic potential of the continent has to exploited and last but not the least we must be prepared to give our fine footballers the respect, dignity and money they deserve. Long live African sport.
Mohamed, Canada

I believe that this is not a mainly African 'problem'. The movement of players all over the world has now become very common to the extent that teams like Chelsea (England) have only a minority English players. While this issue needs to be addressed globally it would be inappropriate to alienate the African players from the financial opportunity the unfortunate but prevalent commercialisation of the sport has provided.
Assefa Ayalew, Ethiopia

Africa has the force to be unbeaten in world football games. But it will not generate it's potential unless Europeans stop stealing Africa's superstar players
Nono, USA

As long as we use them in our national teams when we need them, let them benefits from their talents. Demanding bond may benefit soccer bureaucrats at the expense of the players. There are many other factors impinging the development of soccer in Africa other than exodus of players.
Fortius Rutabingwa, Tanzania

Do the footballers want to be under-achievers or do they want to be the best of the best? Staying in Africa will only leave African football trailing behind the rest of the world as they continue to play in under-funded teams in sub-standard leagues. Africans playing in Europe increases the profile of Africa and it's increasing influence on world football. It would be more damaging for African football if the authorities started blocking the right of talented footballers to leave the continent in order to progress their careers.
Steve, UK

The demand for bonds by South Africa and Nigeria as compensation for their players playing in the Euro Leagues should not be overdone. On the face of it, the idea is politically correct but it raises the danger of diminished demand for these players and the removal of the incentives that drove the millions of young aspirants who work hard to be like their more successful Euro-based compatriots.
Dr Emeka Maduike, USA

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14 Jan 00 |  Cup Features
Africa's worrying soccer exodus

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