After the big payday, what next?

The recent weeks have been caught up in the Mayweather –Pacquiao saga. No doubt, there was no way this could have been the “fight of the century”!

Reports of Mayweather earning US$120 million and Pacquiao, US$80million for this non-event clearly illustrate the potential for generation of wealth through sport. 

These gentlemen are earning amounts that fellow boxers in our beloved Southern Africa can only dream of. However, it is just a question of time, when, not whether some of our most talented sports persons deserve great paydays like this one. Even though there are few if not no Southern African sports star who has earned colossal amounts like Floyd Mayweather Jr, there some who have earned substantial amounts of money but have absolutely nothing to show for it. 

These sports stars earn lots of money whilst they are still very young and sadly they have no clue what to do with the riches being thrown at them. In most cases, young sports persons become millionaires almost overnight. Companies are falling over themselves chasing product endorsements and wanting to sponsor the champions for this and that. Politicians are also never far off. 

They also want to be closely associated with winners and utilize them for their own ends. In short, everybody loves a winner. The life of a sports champion is that of a celebrity and much more.

Nowadays, more than ever before in the history of sport, world champions need the services of doctors, lawyers, accountants and business advisors. Sport has become a multi-billion dollar industry where the old adage of “making hay while the sun is still shining” is absolutely true. If champions do not look after themselves very well in terms of their physical condition as well as their business affairs, then they are most likely to face serious challenges in their later adult life.

Life in the fast lane is fantastic but as the wise people say even good things do not last forever. The highly commercialized world of modern sport continues to pose the all-important question:  After greatness, what next? 

This is a very important question as it seeks addresses fundamental questions of physical and psychological health of champions as well as their economic well-being.

One might ask, how many Southern African national sports associations have athlete career management programmes to help champions and athletes in general to cope with life after retirement from active competition? My educated guess is that there are very few, if not none. 

The Southern Times Sports Forum is indeed concerned by this very sad state of affairs. Most stakeholders seem to be too happy to idolize champions during their times of greatness but cast them into the garbage bin of history when they are no longer active. 

When they retire, most champions are shunned. 

They no longer wine and dine with the Head of State and Senior Government officials. All of a sudden, in most cases, they become burdens, even to Ministers responsible for Sport. During their active days, champions are usually able to see even the Head of State, Ministers or company CEOs without an appointment. However, when they retire, it becomes a different story altogether. This, unfortunately, is the harsh reality of modern sport.

Very few former champions have enduring relevance and importance like the great Brazilian, Pele, or Franz Beckenbauer of Germany, Frank Fredericks of Namibia, Lucas Radebe or the “Great Kalu” Kalusha Bwalya of Zambia. Most former champions sink into alcohol and drug abuse as well as serious poverty and deprivation. 

Prime examples are Mike Tyson, the America boxer and Paul Gascoigne, the talented English footballer, who blew up personal fortunes running into hundreds of millions of dollars. Most of the heroes and heroines of yesteryear are classical cases of riches to rags stories. This is because they are not prepared adequately for life after stardom, which in my opinion, is callous if not criminal negligence on the part of sports administrators. 

Here are people, who in most cases,   have graced  world stadia , sports halls and courts, represented their countries with pride as well as honour but when they grow old or retire , they are treated with great contempt, disdain and disrespect. 

The system spits them out like tasteless chewing gum. No wonder why most parents insist on academic achievement and accomplishment over sport!

Southern Africa   is replete with examples of former sport greats who are now suffering serious poverty and indignity. 

This exposes the great hypocrisy of certain sports leaders and organizations.

Indeed, at the end of day, sports stars are responsible for their plight due to the bad choices but they definitely need better guidance from the leaders and organizations who parade them for competition on the world stage. This guidance is simply not forthcoming! Even the ones who make grave errors of judgment need to be helped.

 They are still human beings and need support like everyone else.  Southern Africa through the Confederation of Southern African National Olympic Committees (COSANOC) and the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 needs to take care of the sports heroes of the region, nurture them into life-long role models and make them sporting ambassadors for their countries and the region. 

 Definite food for thought for the sports authorities!



May 2015
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