Local players find homes in lower overseas leagues

Kabelo Seakanyeng. PIC. MORERI SEJAKGOMO
Kabelo Seakanyeng. PIC. MORERI SEJAKGOMO

Zebras' winger, Kabelo Seakanyeng became the fifth local player to ply his trade in Europe in the upcoming season.   He has signed a one-year deal with Maltese club, Lija Athletic with an option of extension after impressing during trials.

Seakanyeng joins an increasing pack of local footballers in Europe that include Renei Batlokwa who plays in the English third tier while the duo of Eric Molefhi and Kutlo Thobega secured a move to Austrian third division club, ATSV Stadl-Paura in July. 

Mpho Kgaswane also extended his stay with Zira FC in Azerbaijan with a further two years.

Over the years, local players preferred moves to the lucrative South Africa’s Absa Premiership with a number of talents including Diphetogo Selolwane, Mogogi Gabonamong and Phenyo Mongala having played in the league. Currently, only two players remain in the elite league while the other two are in the South African second tier league. It is a dream come true to play in the European league, but are these moves a trick or treat?

For instance, Seakanyeng’s Lija Athletic plays in a five-team league. The conditions in the island state are similar to those of the local players.  According to a FifPro survey done in 2017, eight out of even 10 are paid late and the lowest paid earn €280 (approx. P3,000).

Only 14% earn over €1,878 (approx. P20,000) with the highest paid earner getting €3,755 (approx. P41,300). However, due to its geographic location, Maltese players are easily exported to the Italian leagues.

According to the calculations of research and analysis organ, Sporting Intelligence, in 2018, Azerbaijan elite clubs have paid €52,638 (P578,600) as salaries, as a majority of the players earn €3,000 (approx. P33,000).  Former Zebras midfielder, Vincent Phiri believes that despite the monetary benefits, local players are better off in European leagues due to the higher standards.

“I think the moves for both the players and their managers are good. Our league is not that competitive so players need to play in higher standard football,” he said.

“Technically, we would expect players to improve and this will improve our national team going forward. Things are done properly, there is that level of professionalism in everything and all this would help the player to improve.”

Phiri became the first local player to sign a professional contract in Europe. He played in Germany and Sweden before moving to South Africa.  He expressed worries over the mindset of the local players. “We are too relaxed that’s how we are. Our players should know that when they are out there, they are foreigners and they are there to work. They should know that is all about them and the work,” says the former Orlando Pirates player.

“Honestly, I do not think we have a player that has the right mindset to play at the highest level. We have to go back and come up with a plan, even if it takes 10 years. We have to develop players that would be ready to play at the highest level. It all starts with the administration of football.”

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