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70 percent of South Africas retired soccer players are living below the poverty line.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a Premier Soccer League press conference where they announced the signing of a bargaining agreement with the South African Football Players Union (SAFPU).

The conference was full of self-congratulatory nonsense from the PSL, containing little actual information. It seemed pointless, futile, a total waste of a weekday afternoon.

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from the president of SAFPU, Hareipha ‘Simba’ Marumo. The impassioned words of Marumo could not have been further removed from the dull ramblings of that press conference.

Marumo, in a quite astonishing statement, said that “70percent of our retired players are living in extreme poverty”.

I blinked, slightly stunned. 70percent? “The same players, who have been an inspiration and a symbol of unity to our nation, are today the subject of mockery and ridicule because just two years after retiring many of them are completely broke and have no skills to speak of to sustain their lives,” continued Marumo.

It was a deeply moving speech, as Marumo called on the PSL and the South African Football Association to help these players, whose situation is contributed to by a number of social factors, such as a lack of education and problems with alcohol abuse.

At the aforementioned press conference Marumo was far less outspoken, preferring a more conciliatory, grateful tone toward the PSL. Perhaps he felt it was better to be political with the PSL Executive Committee, and reveal the true extent of his problems at a later date.

He has certainly come out in an effusive manner, calling on the PSL and SAFA to “take a stronger and more decisive position” on player education.

“Today, we are proud to announce that our league is in the top seven richest leagues in the world, but what we fail to realise is that we stand on a pedestal made up of the broken legs, blood, and sweat of our ex-footballers who today we have neglected,” continued Marumo.

Show us that you care, seems to be the gist of Marumo’s message to the league. And I like it. The PSL were all too willing to call a press conference to announce this supposedly “historic” agreement. But an agreement is nothing without action to implement it.

They now need show that there is meaning behind their flowery semantics, and back up Marumo’s statement with a concerted effort to help these players, who are clearly suffering.


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