African soccer players abroad building home countries, fight poverty and hunger

July 10, 2023

It really pays to travel and experience the world in its diversity but Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. said “Home is where the heart is.” Just last week, acclaimed French professional footballer Kylian Mbappé made a highlly appreciated visit to his Fathers homeland Cameroon. The ecstasy with which the crowds ushered Mbappe into the country testifies to how football fans on African soil really look at African soccer players abroad as their source of pride, emblem of possibilities, and idols of sorts.

In his book, The gifted hands, Ben Carson pointed on how some children, especially from not well to do families embrace sports as their closest assured path to greatness. However, he in the same book advised that even though it may be a path to fame, only a few can successfully use it. Maybe, just maybe, Kyllian Mbappe, Sadio Mane, George Weah, Mohammed Sallah, Paul Pogba, Ausmane Ndebelle and the likes represent this rare breed. 

Local African support for their players abroad

Talk to any avid football fan and you immediately realize that their support is more than just superficial. To be exact, football fanaticism in African countries can sometimes feel more spiritual than just a pastime.

In Kenya for example, football fans who have also become active in sports betting support a lot of teams in the European leagues. You will get Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Aston Villa…name it; supporters. 

As much as soccer fans in Africa may remain loyal in support of individual teams abroad, they draw more inspiration from those teams that have players of African origin. No racism here but sheer appreciation that their own too can fit the bill for entering such high level leagues. 

For instance, if André Onana who plays in the French Serie A makes saves, it becomes an African pride by default. After all who never wants to identify with Onana’s quintessential saves and amazing goalkeeping abilities? It’s just out of this world. 

Expectation of African fans from local players based abroad

Word out there has it that football players earn lots of money from their signings abroad. In Kenya for instance, players in the Kenya Premier League do all they can to earn a slot in the national team, play in the African Cup of Nations with the hope to catch attention of rich clubs abroad.

Apart from the soccer players of African descent but born in other countries, the rest that made it to foreign leagues earned their spaces by sheer display of raw talent. While some just get into football playing as a talent, it ends up providing the truest staircase to the top of it which they proceed to share with the communities back home.

Soccer fans in Africa  may never have particular demands on their foreign based players. But as anyone would expect, the hefty earnings from lets say European leagues, sponsors and network together gives these players an edge. Yes, they may play for the medals, golden boots and top Guiness world record but then from their full ad overflowing cup, the underserved villagers back home hope to benefit. In fact, so many African players in foreign  leagues are ahead of themselves and have identified ways to give back to the afflicted and unattended communities back home.

African footballers coming back to built home

Anyone who’s been abroad must have been asked the tired question of “where do you come from?” Those who consider themselves natives of that country will not make it up that someone who looks different can claim to be from that country.

While some may consider it discrimination and offensive to be asked about home country based on descendancy,self aware individuals just let them be. But even so, soccer players based abroad, especially in the European leagues, seem to have picked cue and now look back to change their home continent for the better. 

Sadio Mané

The Senegalese forward player, Sadio Mane  has warmed the hearts of many and inspired younger talents to believe in the great possibilities of staying the course. In pieces of conversations, self disclosures and biographies attributed to Sadio Mané, he talks of the many struggles he had to overcome to get to where he is now.

Even as we all marvel at the rise and rise of Sadio Mané, he too has found a way to share what life has given him with the less fortunate of his country. Some of the projects that Mané is said to mobilize support for include; 

  • Built a £455,000 hospital 
  • Financed construction of a post office and public school in Bambali
  • Runs a €70 monthly support for every family in his home village

Kylian Mbappé 

The young player not long ago caught public attention when he conferred that he donated much of his earnings to those who need it most. As captured by the Daily Mail, Mbappe revealed that he gave away £380,000 World Cup wage to charities and donations.

Although born in France to a Cameroonian father, Wilfried Mbappé, Kylian now seems to be returning home in kind. It would look like the father who had stepped out of the motherland to pursue higher interests in football has a great influence in the son’s soccer career. In his recent trip to Cameroon, Kylian is expected to among other things;

  • Make a visit  to Noah Village
  • visit to the School for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Children
  • Go to two schools in Yaounde and Douala that benefit from the player’s foundation,  Inspired by KM.
  • Meet with young Cameroonian footballers

To get a clear picture of how African footballers, past and present contribute to changing their home countries, it would be perfect to single out each of them. In their own small ways, at least every African soccer player in the European leagues have run charitable drives and set foundations that primarily focus on uplifting the society as well as supporting upcoming young talents.

Other African footballers who contributed to building their countries

  • George Oppong Weah
  • Samuel Eto’o 
  • Didier Drogba
  • Mohammed Salah
  • Yaya Toure |

Final take

For so many young and old people in Africa,supporting or watching soccer ranks tops in everyday activities. Some may simply be interested in monitoring team and players performance to guide in the current of future betting. But, a good number of football fans also feel a sense of pride seeing their own performing so excellently  in the English premier league or any other teams abroad.

If there’s any one thing that having the African power in the European league succeeds in is creating a sense of unity. Apart from the inclusivity that comes with African players abroad, a lot of projects and programmes started by these top players significantly transform their communities and countries.

To you  reading this, which player from your country now plays abroad and what initiatives have they kick-started in earnest to change their home country?

Author Fredrick