Former Super Eagles defender, Sam Sodje has pleaded with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to provide the platform for players to learn vocations and acquire related skills when they are still active, saying such a move would help in stemming the rising unemployment among retired footballers.
He added that the move would also motivate the present generation of players to give more to the country knowing they would have something to fall back on when they retire.
Speaking at the weekend, Sodje noted that some Nigerian footballers live in penury on retirement because there has not been any form of orientation to teach them skills that would make them relevant in the system when they quit the scene.
He also advised the federation to create a platform that would teach such skills as furniture making, painting, and building designing, tailoring and other noble professions to those who may not want to continue in football line.
Sodje advised the NFF to partner with companies in the private sector to engage retired footballers, saying such firms could employ the former stars would skills other than their football talents.
“It is not the federation’s job to give money to former players, but they should put a structure on ground to make the retired footballers useful after retirement.
“Everybody cannot be a coach, pundit or agent… there has to be other means which a player can also be relevant in the society.
“A retired player who is grounded in making shoes, painting and building houses will succeed because people will patronize him because of his popularity. This is the kind of orientation some of us never had when we where playing.
“I have set up a company in Lagos with a former player from U.K. called Rob Trott. The company is focused on leasing tractors and other high-tech machines to companies for constructions. This is part of my contribution to also create jobs in the country,” he said.
The former Nott’s County star also wondered why the NFF continued to focus on only the more popular former Eagles stars like Austin Okocha, Kanu Nwankwo and Victor Ikpeba when some other Nigerian players, who also gave their best to the country, are roaming the streets unemployed.
He advised the federation to treat all the retired players equally, saying, “the present NFF board under Amaju Pinnick has done a good job in terms of marketing the Eagles to the world and giving the players their entitlements as at when due. But they should also balance their pattern of giving former internationals assignments by ensuring it gets to as many players as possible.
“Okocha, Kanu and Ikpeba are legends in Nigerian football, I respect them. But they are not the only former footballers. There are other players who served the country that are living in abject poverty that needs help.
“In England, the English PFA has a well structured process to make players get jobs and the best welfare after retirement.
“I was the best student in my class when I finished my level 1and 2 coaching courses in England. The England player who came second in the course was given a job immediately.
“This is the structure they put in place to give players the best. The NFF needs to replicate this in Nigeria.”
“This is the only way former footballers would get good treatment in Nigeria.
Most ex players cannot even go to stadium to watch matches because of the harassment they get at the gates.
“The federation needs to give special badges to retired internationals which will give them access to football matches. These are some of the issues that need to be addressed,” he added.