‘African leagues need to be more professional’

The International Federation of Professional Footballers, FifPro, which represents the world’s professional footballers, recently held the first congress of its African branch, the Union of African Footballers (Uaf) in Algeria, earlier this week.

“We need to understand that these players have families who depend on them and if the money and league is good at home, obviously they would love to stay,” said Seggelen in a post congress statement.

It was a landmark meeting on African soil and also the first congress of its African Branch, the Union of African Footballers. Although being overshadowed by Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o being voted the African footballer of the year, FIFpro managed to delve into the burning issues patterning to African football on the continent and footballers of African roots as a whole.

“We (FifPro) think the solution is to create more professional leagues and good welfare for African players in their own countries so that they can earn their own life in their own country.

“It’s not easy but we just have to try,” said the Secretary General, observing how hard this can be on a continent that has been characterised by poverty, underdevelopment, corruption.

Seggelen blamed the absence of professional leagues in African countries, as the root cause of the mass exodus of Africa’s raw talent for Europe’s greener pastures.

At present just five of FifPro’s 42 members are African – Nigeria, Cameroon, Egypt, South Africa and Algeria – but Seggelen insists there is progress in their quest to have more African representatives.

“We can only increase the African members by having organised leagues as Fifpro represents the rights of professional players.

“I think there is some positive movement in places like Morocco, Tunisia and Kenya.” In Southern Africa, only 2010 AFCON hosts Angola has been identified as more advanced in having a professional league.

Fifpro also wants to get involved in the build-up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Earlier in November, FifPro formalized its relationship with Fifa when the two bodies signed a Memorandum of Understanding.

They have enjoined African countries to create professional leagues and put in place good player welfare policies.

In effect, ensuring that footballers receive decent salaries from their professional activities is one of the principal missions of FIFPro. The federation also seeks to pursue and defend the rights of professional football players, work for their dignified and honourable existence and freedom to choose a position or job.

FIFPro also stands for obligatory insurance against the risks involved in the practice of competitive sports, stability of the profession, players’ complete agreement with their contract and total freedom of negotiation.

To be able to protect the rights of African Footballers, FIFPro noted that it has to start by being present on the field but its smaller membership appears to be the biggest dent.

Judging from the recent moves taken by FIFPro and FIFA to work hands in gloves, more African countries might join in the Federation by 2007. A memorandum of understanding was signed on November 2, 2006 between FIFA represented by its President Joseph S. Blatter and FIFPRO also represented by its President, Philippe Piat. The two parties agreed to mutually recognise each other and reinforce their cooperation and dialogue on major issues affecting contemporary football.

This memorandum is considered a milestone in the modernisation of football structures and social relations within the football community.

December 2006
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