By Nii Ayitey Tetteh
Sivananda Saraswati was a Hindu spiritual teacher and an advocate of Yoga who made quite a number of profound quotes during his lifetime. Indeed, you may not be a practitioner of either spiritual or physical exercise, but you cannot deny the relevance of his quotes throughout the times. This week, one of such, has rang ceaselessly in my mind; “Let each man take the path according to his capacity, understanding and temperament. His true guru will meet him along that path.”
That quote sprang to mind as I tried to make sense of the move by one of the rising Ghanaian footballers I so admire; Rabiu Mohamamed. In the course of the week, he completed a transfer from French club Évian Thonon Gaillard to Russian outfit, Kuban Krasnador. No Rabiu! was my first reaction. Then I realized, it wasn’t just Rabiu making what from afar, looked like an ‘unwise move’. It seemed that, these days, Ghanaian footballers are increasingly making moves for financial reasons rather than sporting ones. Indeed, the list is growing. Rabiu’s national team captain, Asamoah Gyan, traded the exposure, glitz and glamour of the English League for an obscure team, Al Ain in the UAE; Emmanuel Baffour, ex national goal king (21 goals) couldn’t wait for a practical move and jumped ship quickly to South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns in 2012; Isaac Vorsah left Germany’s Hoffenheim for relatively unknown Red Bull Salzburg in Austria; Samuel Inkoom took a huge risk and left Swiss side Basel for Ukraine’s Dnipro; rising national goalie Fatau Dauda left local side Ashanti Gold to South Africa’s Orlando Pirates with no guarantees of first team action and as I speak another rising star, Mubarak Wakaso could leave his Spanish outfit Espanyol to Rubin Kazan in Russia so he can improve his reported monthly salary of $20,000 to $125,000.
The common denominator amongst these moves seems to be improved remuneration, which is all good on the face of it, yes it is, but it also comes with a huge risk, a risk of seeing your career go downhill as in the case of Samuel Inkoom and Emmanuel Baffour. Though we may have the best of intentions, it is far easy for you and I to sit in the comfort of our homes and pass judgment on moves made by Ghanaian footballers without examining the peculiar circumstances of those footballers in question.
Reality and Motivation
The ideal situation for Rabiu would have been to stay put at Evian or move to mainland Europe as speculated. Rabiu had just had a breakout season with Evian and also become a mainstay with the national team. You would think that since the 2014 world cup is a just under a year, Rabiu would have sought an improved contract in France and better still move to mainland Europe where his continual development would be better served. Why risk a going to Russia, an environment which isn’t exactly friendly to African players, and have your career plummet and probably lose your national team position? In Russia, xenophobia (unreasonable fear for foreigners) is so rife that footballers, especially blacks and Africans have been at the receiving end. Even established Super Stars like Samuel Etoo haven’t had easy rides. From afar, Rabiu should have avoided Russia. But the reality is that, none of us have personally asked Rabiu what is motivation is? We are probably assuming that he seeks career progression as any regular worker and by extension a footballer would. Maybe we need to pause for a moment and find out what a particular footballer’s motivation is before passing judgment. For all we know Rabiu’s motivation could be financial, as was Asamoah Gyan’s and Samuel Inkoom and even Wakaso’s (should he move to Russia). Same could be said of locals like Fatau Dauda and Emmanuel Baffour who moved from the local league where salaries range from as low as GHC30 Cedis to GHC500 on the average.
These moves almost guarantee the players about three times what the usually earn, and with agents (salivating at fat commissions), family members, and other hangers-on breathing down their neck, their reality would surely be different from that of fans and pundits from a distance. Some of these moves may indeed be huge risks, but these footballers would probably have thought it through knowing that in as much as history may be a guide, it is also not scientific and each one of us can always start from a clean slate.
So, yes it is true that history is replete with bad tales of how the careers of some Ghanaian players have regressed anytime they move into particular regions like Tunisia, South Africa and even Russia, but for all those sour stories, there are a few relatively successful ones. Jonathan Mensah played for Free State Stars in South Africa before moving to Europe; Harrison Aful has had a fairly successful career with Esperance of Tunisia. In Russia as well, Fellow African, Seydou Doumbia from Ivory Coast, has enjoyed some success; winning the goal king in 2011/2012 and was even voted Russian footballer of the year. The crux of the matter, like Rabiu and his colleagues will have us believe, is that every individual can cut his own path and tell his own story; a case of different strokes for different folks. The dilemma after all, could be for us, the observers and not for the footballer making the move, because like Sivananda Saraswati imputed, these footballers maybe making their decisions according to their capacity, understanding and temperament. Do you agree?