The African continent is synonymous with poverty and underdevelopment, but the former midfield maestro is longing to see a paradigm shift
Austin Okocha has made a clarion call to African football administrators, stakeholders, and supporters to tap into the many benefits of the beautiful game aside from entertainment.
Born and raised in Enugu, Okocha knew what poverty was before he left for Europe in 1990, where he made a successful career for himself.
After carving out a sizeable legacy in history as one of the most gifted playmakers of his generation, Okocha returned to Nigeria, where he currently spends a significant part of his time.
But poverty in the land may have even gotten worse than when he was a teenager, with the majority of the populace still lacking adequate provision to satisfy their basic needs.
The continent is still bedevilled with poor infrastructure: clean potable water is rare, transportation systems have barely been updated in decades, and housing is becoming a luxury. The attendant consequences include a low standard of living and quality of life.
Okocha, though, believes that football, besides its entertainment value, can lead Africa’s march out of the trenches. There is practically no part of the continent where football is not loved, watched, and followed.
And the Bolton Wanderers legend has made a passionate plea for football stakeholders to copy the business model of Middle Eastern nations to open wealth-creating opportunities for Africans.
“Like Gulf countries such as Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, Africa can and must use football as a showcase for its development,” Okocha said in quotes obtained from Afrique Sports.
“The benefits are immense and in the space of a few years, an incredible amount of opportunity can emerge for our millions of young people.
“Africa needs to completely rethink its approach to football. We should no longer see football as a party.
“Certainly, it is a game that provides pleasure, but this game must be used to create wealth and employment.”
After retirement, Okocha tried his hands in football administration and was in 2015 elected as the Chair of the Delta State Football Association.
Lately, the ex-PSG star has served as a brand ambassador and football pundit, providing analysis for major tournaments, including the African Cup of Nations and the European championships.