Out Of Africa
Egypt - The Land Of Discovery
Finally, after eight years of trying, I managed - in January 2006 - to clear a large enough gap in my touring diary, to enable me to make it to that year’s African Cup of Nations. Sixteen African nations battling it out for ultimate glory.
Over the previous six months Jacob Amaning, our Chief African Scout, had worked diligently in assisting me to sign a small group of African-continent players to our company (at the time, mainly being Zambian and Zimbabwean).
However, while we were down in Egypt, we found it surprisingly easy to approach the players and their country’s officials, to discuss prospective moves for those of the various international players that we felt could “cut it” back in the UK.
That year’s sixteen-team line-up included several of the consistent qualifiers of the same competition, over the years: Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Tunisia and the host country Egypt. Other colourful nations included Zimbabwe and Togo.
Surprisingly, of the above-mentioned initial five countries, only one of them had previously made it to the final stages of the World Cup, namely Tunisia. On the other hand, it was most surprising to find that the likes of Mali, Morocco and Algeria had failed to qualify for that year’s African Nations Cup.
In fact, three of the teams within the ranks of the 2006 African Nations Cup had already qualified for the latter stages of the World Cup in 2006, for the first time: Angola, Togo and Ghana. Ghana did even better in the 2010 World Cup, only being eliminated by cruel twist of fate, which should never have been allowed.
However, The Dream Lives On
Here at Showtime International Ltd we remain committed to the vision of becoming the recognised and trusted footballing operation throughout the African continent and are hopeful of eventually enjoying a long and fruitful relationship with many of the leading footballing nations on the African continent.
Our basic plan was always to meet up with our established contacts, in their own country if possible, thereby consolidating a trusted network: consisting of a “local” scout in each relevant territory. Those scouts, in turn, would report to Jacob, who would then filter the necessary information through to our company base in the UK.
Our immediate priority was to continue to gain respected acceptance as the most professional, foreign-based, operation throughout the African continent. We then intended to turn our attentions to the many African players who were already located on the European continent, to ascertain their need for professional representation.
Networking Is The Key
Jacob and I then planned to use our time, while in Egypt, as effectively as possible to initiate many of those incentives. We were aware that, as well as many scouting representatives of the major UK clubs being in attendance for the main part of the tournament, there were also several of the bigger footballing agencies on the lookout for new clients.
We attended as many games as possible, while looking to concentrate on the countries not only with whom our own clients (at the time) were featuring, but also where Jacob had worked hard over the last few years to establish trusted relationships with certain national associations - relationships which we believed would undoubtedly stand us in excellent stead for the future.
Only The Strong Survive
If you are a professional African footballer who wishes to further his career in Europe, then – ironically - having the talent to do so is the easy part. Such a player must consider the many changes that will happen in his life as he looks to learn about (and live within) a contrastingly different culture. He must learn to professionally endure different weather conditions, different food, different customs and – possibly most challenging of all at first – a markedly different style of football.
Being physically tough is easy – mental strength is another required quality.
If the African player can acclimatise to all of the above-mentioned changes and challenges, then the possible rewards could ensure his security for the time when said player can no longer rely on football to put food on the table.
We Can Work It Out
As you may be aware, there exist fairly stringent restrictions in the U.K. regarding Work Permits. Therefore, it remains considerably easier to locate a non-EU player with a European mainland club - than it does to secure him a contract in United Kingdom.
However, once again (having been through the Work Permit processes in relation to Eliphas Shivute, when we negotiated his transfer – the first for any Namibian player in the UK – to the Scottish Premier League club, Motherwell FC, in 1996) we are well versed in the various interim procedures and continue to maintain a healthy working relationship with many of the staff at the UK offices of the DOE.
In fact, as an interesting aside, and as further testament to our organisational capabilities, we succeeded (with the close association of Motherwell F.C.) in securing Eliphas Shivute’s Work Permit in nine working days – a Scottish “record”, we are led to believe. That, however, was way back in 1996.
As you can see: the commitment was there, the enthusiasm was undiminished, and the initial investment was lavished. Alas, over time, the complications and the intrigue - surrounding the procurement and re-location of those selected African players – resulted in a convoluted set of circumstances that almost bankrupted me. However, on the plus side, it gave me the opportunity to visit some amazing countries (Zambia, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Egypt) and encounter some even more amazing young football players. I was – still am - both humbled, and inspired, by that whole experience. Maybe one day Africa will come good for me.