In Mozambique, there are few in football who do not know the name Shafee Sidat. He is the country’s most famous FIFA agent and, according to him, all Mozambican players want to be represented by his agency, Sports Africa. This season he will yet again be scouring the football fields of Africa for the deft touches of the lithe and swift legs of the next Didier Drogba.
Sidat represents 49 players worth $10 million: four Zimbabweans; two Zambians and six Brazilians. Among them, the most expensive Mozambican player, Simão Mathe, who transferred recently from Panathinaikos to Sandong Hueng, a club in the Chinese second division. Right now, Mathe is the agent’s goose laying the golden eggs.
“He left Mozambique for an extremely low value—$200,000. Currently he is quoted in the market at over $8 million. I had to wait three years for him to go up in value. He is my business card,” says Sidat.
Sidat’s love for football grew in the late 1980s. He played for Ferroviário de Maputo, and there was talk of a transfer to Sporting Clube de Portugal, one of the top three clubs in the Portuguese league. The uncertainty of a football career led him to settle for the security of an academic degree.
“I chose to attend the college of economics instead of going to Portugal,” he says.
Mozambique is hardly a happy hunting ground for football agents. It stands 107th in the FIFA rankings, which means hard work for Sidat.
“Even though some players show quality, they end up getting lost in the country’s statistical results,” he says.
The lack of training in the Mozambican clubs is another problem.
“Out of ten players going to the junior teams in European clubs, only two remain. We had more luck with Zambians than Mozambicans players, because Zambia is the African champion and has an English mindset. Zambian players are very professional,” says Sidat.
Brazilian players, with their Lusophone connection, are showing interest in playing for Mozambican clubs. Many see Mozambique as a bridge to the more lucrative market of South Africa and Sidat helps them cross it.
Portugal is the gateway to Europe for African players, says Sidat. Every time he tries to sell to European clubs, Sidat has to pay the player’s travel costs. All this investment is only refunded if the club buys.
According to the agent, under the transfer market lie dark realities. He says he knows cases of athletes who were abandoned in Europe, after being dropped by a team.
“I saw cases of FIFA colleagues, especially the Brazilians, who led a number of players to Europe. They lived in crowded apartments. Many of them were left stranded in these countries,” he says.
When buying players, Sidat watches videos from other agents.
“The images that come to us aren’t recorded by professional cameras. Agents sell the idea that the player we saw in the picture is who they are promoting, but sometimes it’s a different player,” he says.
In a game of heroes, Sidat has his. In his view, the best agent in the world is Portuguese agent, Jorge Mendes—a former footballer turned DJ and nightclub owner—represents several superstars including Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid manager, José Mourinho.
Sidat wants to follow the highly successful management model of Gestifute, the agency owned by Mendes. It is going to take a giant leap to make it from $10 million in Maputo to the $650 million of Mendes in Europe, but, if nothing else, the career of Sidat shows that if you don’t give up anything is possible.