More often than not, we hear of the pressure that comes with the responsibility of being a professional footballer, especially at a young age. It is never easy to break through into the professional ranks and the struggle that comes with it can be both a blessing and a curse, at the same time. A blessing because the world is your oyster and a curse because there is a big price to pay for being in that position. As the Bible says, in Luke 12:48, “To him whom much is given, much is required.”
This is where most of our professional athletes miss the point, striking the balance between the blessing and the curse that comes with playing professional sport. Once you sign on the dotted line, you better believe it when we say that’s the end of your teenage years! The same goes for Mamelodi Sundowns young sensation, Siyabonga Mabena, who made his professional debut at 16 against Royal AM last week. If the reaction to his debut is anything to go by, the Grade 10 pupil’s life will never be the same again because, unlike Lebohang Mokoena, for instance, he’s living in the digital world where just a simple flash of a camera is enough to share your life with the rest of the world. You’re never going to be a minor and an adult at the same time. The moment you sign, you cease to be a teenager because of the responsibilities that come with that signature. You’re no longer like the other kids your age after signing professional. You become special and there is a price to be paid for being special.
Even in their families, these kinds of people get elevated to sometimes even surpass their biological parents in the hierarchy. They easily become the head of the home and it becomes an unwritten law that they are leaders by virtue of being providers and breadwinners. Let’s face it, most of these athletes earn far more than their parents and that gives them a voice because not many, even their own parents, have the courage to call them out when they go off the rails. The parents may hint at their disapproval, but they’re unlikely to run the risk of ‘biting the hand that feeds them’. The onus is on you, the young professional, to elevate yourself and change the way you do things by growing up fast and maturing quickly. One of the biggest mistakes professional athletes tend to make is to turn their backs on their amateur coaches and presidents and think they are not good enough to ‘coach’ them anymore. They then adopt new guardians who are only after the fame and fortune that comes with associating with professional athletes, whereas the former were just doing it for the love and passion of the Beautiful Game and the athlete’s wellbeing.