The power of education has gravely been underestimated by many sports institutions and athletes in Nigeria. Many footballers believe that the raw talents possessed are enough to see them achieve their dreams, without thinking about life beyond retirement from playing actively, or thinking of the consequences in the event that they end up not playing at all. A number of retired professional footballers have often struggled to keep up financially and socially, due to the lack of the necessary mental and management skills. In recent years, there have been several heartbreaking stories of athletes who were previously extremely wealthy, becoming broke and bankrupt. There have also been instances of African stars, who were once role models to a lot of aspiring African kids, turning up in the news for being homeless and even begging for help. One notable instance is an Ivorian football legend, Emmanuel Eboue. In one of his interviews with The Mirror, Eboue disclosed that he was broke and homeless. He explained that most of that was due to his divorce, his former wife had control over his finances. With proper education, occurrences like this can be prevented.
Furthermore, due to the limited chances available in the football world, a number of those who fail in their bids to become professionals usually end up struggling through life. They would have spent so much time and energy in their physical development as an athlete while ignoring the need for their mental development. Many of those who are passionate about sports only see playing actively as a means to maximize their talents and express themselves. They lack the fundamental understanding to realize that involvement in sports is far beyond just playing. There are other roles and opportunities in the sports industry which are also as lucrative. With proper education and training, many of these young talents would also excel as sports coaches, scouts, analysts and so on.
Another major reason why education is pivotal for athletes is in decision making. A large number of athletes become unsuccessful because they fall prey to fraudulent agents. Education aids perception, it is difficult to perceive susceptible agents without proper education. This leaves many of them frustrated and in some cases, the experience can be too traumatic that they suffer long term mental illness. Moreover, because they are not able to penetrate into the general workforce of the labor market, they constantly hunt for crooked means just to fend for themselves. Some become thugs and louts, others end up becoming fake agents and scouts by themselves.
Although access to conventional education is difficult for the majority of these struggling athletes, they need to be encouraged to read books and be engaged in vocational training. Coaches and managers also need to be lectured extensively on the need to organize educational workshops for their players, so that they do not end up becoming menaces in society. Additionally, exposing them to various possibilities and empowering them, alleviates ignorance and naivety. The campaign for education in sports in Africa requires urgent intervention.