WINDHOEK – A recent research conducted by New Era Sport reveals that Namibian athletes are among the least paid on the entire African continent, with the exception of professional boxers and rugby players plying their trade beyond the borders of their native land.
The country’s number one sport, football is the worst hit with players earning a pittance in comparison with what their counterparts in neigbouring South Africa, Zambia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Botswana take home.
Namibia has fallen way down the pecking order in terms of the most lucrative sponsored leagues in Africa and ranks disappointingly outside the top 15. Africa’s commercial powerhouse South Africa leads the pack (1) followed by Botswana (7), Zimbabwe (8), Malawi (12), Swaziland (14), and Zambia (15) in that order from the SADC region.
Local footballers are struggling to keep hunger at bay with their skeleton monthly remuneration ranging between N$2 000 and N$10 000, excluding win bonuses.
Shortly after Namibia’s Independence in 1990, local football used to attract some of the finest talent from neigbouring countries, mostly refugees and asylum seekers from Angola, DRC, Zimbabwe and Zambia, recruited for a song with no fixed salaries or signing on fee for that matter.
Although domestic football is still in its infant stage of semi-professionalism, three quarters of footballers campaigning in the domestic MTC Premiership are full-time employees with the beautiful game their prime source of income.
Top earners in the South African Professional Soccer League (PSL), Africa’s richest football league, take home up to N$450 000 and N$300 000 per month, excluding win bonuses, while the lowest are marooned on N$15 000 and N$30 000 per month.
Those plying their trade in the stinking oil-rich Girabola (Angola), earn mega bucks since clubs from that neck of the woods are fully bankrolled by local petroleum companies, police force, defense force, airways and local business moguls – making the Girabola one of the most attractive destination for foreign footballers.
Professional footballers in Angola earn handsome monthly salaries of US$3 000 up to US$15 000. In recent years, the Mobile Premier League in diamond-rich Botswana has upped the stakes with players in the top brass on N$40 000 while those in the lowest bracket take home N$15 000 per month.
It has been established that record four-time Namibian champions Black Africa and rivals African Stars top the list of the best paid footballers in the domestic league with their playing personnel demarcated in three different categories, (A) N$8 000-N$10 000, (B) N$5 000-N$8 000, (C) N$2 000-N$5 000.
On a rare occasion, clubs are obliged to part ways with a fixed amount of N$25 000 in signing on feeS in a bid to lure top-class players to their nest. The amount is usually settled in three instalments.
Ironically, the country’s football authorities are yet to fix minimum wages – leaving the poor athletes at the sole discretion of football administrators.
As it stands, Namibian footballers are treading a very thin line in the conspicuous absence of life cover in the event players suffering career ending injuries, let alone a retirement fund should their short-lived careers gets disrupted.