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African footballers are a wanted commodity but are not necessarily from the continent

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By the time the mid-season transfer window closed at the end of January, an estimated 2,000 footballers used the month-long opportunity to transfer from one club to another.

It is one of the two periods in the year when clubs are allowed to buy and sell players and although not as busy as the June-August window, it is a frenetic time as clubs in the major football-playing nations look to strengthen their teams for the second half of the season.

Among the list of movements this January were a bevy of common African names: Bangoura, Boateng, Diaw, Kamara, Mendy, Owusu, Sissoko and Touré.

But while this might suggest there is a healthy exodus of Africa’s top talent to the bigger, and more lucrative leagues of Europe, it is but an illusion.

READ MORE | The Million Dollar Game

African footballers are still a wanted commodity, but not necessarily those from the continent.

Instead, it is the ever-increasing numbers from the diaspora – second- and even third-generation kids born in Europe to African parents who are prized for the physical prowess and creativity that their African genes provide, but also having had the benefit of a more formal footballing education in Europe.

France has always been the primary destination for African footballers with the top clubs long casting an eye over the best that the continent has to offer.

But while there were many African footballers moving to and from French clubs this January, not one arrived directly from an African team.

In England, Germany and Spain, none from them either. Two Belgian clubs took players from academies in Mali and Senegal but not from clubs.

Only Italy’s Atalanta spent €200,000 ($225,533) on William Tabi  from ASEC Abidjan in the Ivory Coast. His teammate in the Ivorian under-20 side, Wilfried Singo, also went from Denguélé  to Torino.

It is as if the market has dried up and a lot of it has to do with the age restrictions on player movements,” London-based agent Rob Moore tells FORBES AFRICA.

South African Moore was at the heart of the biggest move of the January transfer window as American Christian Pulisic went for some €60 million ($67.6 million) from Borussia Dortmund to Chelsea.

“There is little doubt that when FIFA brought in the rule that restricted the movement of players aged 18 it put African players at a severe disadvantage,” adds Mike Makaab, whose agency has moved players to Belgium, Germany, Greece and Italy in the past.

“Clubs want younger players because they believe they can still mould them. It has been a major blow to the market although I wouldn’t be surprised if that rule is changed.

“Obviously, it would have to come with strict rules and restrictions on potential exploitation.”

But African football is about much more than only an incubator of talent. It has established competitions like the Nations Cup, Champions League and Confederation Cup, which now all enjoy fulsome coverage with matches broadcast live around the world.

“Football clubs in Europe are spoiled for choice,” Makaab adds.

“The market in Africa is competing with players from Eastern Europe, from the Americas and now increasingly Asia. There is a lot of choice.

“I find that sometimes the clubs in Africa are not realistic in their pricing of players. They want too much for players who have already established themselves, not cognisant of the fact that clubs can find similar quality elsewhere in the world.”

READ MORE | Unequal Pay for Equal Play

Moore says clubs in Africa must also realize that the increasing sophistication of football and its growing technicality demands better developed players, with physical prowess and skills now needing to be matched by decision-making and sporting intelligence.

“This is probably why now there are so many young players from the USA that are making a breakthrough in Europe. American youngsters grow up with a lot more of theory of the game than those from Africa. It’s the way they are coached at an early age.”

Historically, most transfers from Africa are from the west. Players from north and southern Africa are paid better in their domestic leagues and, therefore, tend to stay home.

“You find that South African footballers don’t really have that ambition to go overseas anymore as the money in the Premier Soccer League has improved. Once they get to the PSL, many of them tend to sit on their laurels,” laments Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter, who feels it is imperative that players move to Europe for the experience and increased competition.

Our national team is stronger if there are more players based at European clubs. I try to encourage players to get out there but not many make the move.

“The best African national sides are those with the most players at the biggest clubs. That’s the reality,”  Baxter adds.

When South Africa won the African Nations Cup title in 1996, the majority of their players were either already at European clubs, or on the brink of making the move.

Fast forward to this season and the country does not have a single player in the top leagues in England, Spain, Germany and Italy, and just a handful plying their trade in France.

It’s a fact that correlates with the downward turn in fortunes for the national team.

-Mark Gleeson

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John Smit leaves everything on the field

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A game does not end when the final whistle blows. Its impact reverberates throughout a community when the stadiums are empty. Former rugby captain John Smit, in his role as CEO of a security company, has ensured that the tournaments are alive and kicking.


As captain of the World Cup-winning Springboks in 2007, John Smit was, “Mr Right Place, Right Time”. He was the centerpiece that connected management to the players and the players to the fans.

His talents have evolved into the commercial sphere, where he now sits and curates a partnership that could save rugby and have a much more meaningful impact on the communities whose lives revolve around club rugby.

Security and maintenance company SSG Group – for which Smit is acting CEO – were, in March, named co-sponsors for the Gold Cup, a rugby tournament steeped in the blood and sweat of community involvement.

“A lot of our clientele are the mines in the North West and Limpopo area,” Smit says.

READ MORE | Bryan Habana Swaps Sweatpants For Suits

“Those communities are massively passionate about the game and we wanted to show that this company not only wanted to leave a footprint within the community using SMEs but also, we wanted to help keep a tournament alive that is quite important to a lot of them.

“It was really just to show our gratitude for the community that we were allowed to work within. I met the Rustenburg Impala Rugby Club guys a few weeks ago and rugby is really important around that mining area.

“It’s a massive part of their culture and their working environment. When this thing happened, Jorge Ferreira (SSG Group CEO) called me to get my thoughts on what this sponsorship would entail. I said to him it’s an unbelievable partnership because everyone wants to go straight to the top but this is where the real rugby starts and ends.”

Fans pack the creaky stands, making a ruckus and cheering uninhibitedly for their sons, fathers and uncles as they put their bodies through the dirt for the sheer pleasure of it.

In most communities where club rugby is played, it’s the only recreational outlet with the gravitas that pulls 12,000 people to a game, like last year’s Pirates Grand Challenge Final between Villagers Worcester and Roses United in Worcester last year.

Put into perspective, 14,000 people watched the Stormers play the Lions at Newlands in February. Goliath-eque franchise budgets were brought to size by passionate, ordinary folk.

“There was a guy that came to one of the games on horseback. There were so many people at the game that he could not see, so he watched the game on his horse to get a view,” Smit says.

You can only get that at Gold Cup games. It’s something magically unique. These people play for free, they play for the community and they play for each other.

“The games are well-supported because the communities have a vested interest in the game – their husbands, uncles, brothers, friends, cousins, employees or employers are participating in them. Everyone comes.”

The Gold Cup portfolio landed on Smit’s desk by chance. One might say there was some alchemy involved. Ferriera’s untimely death, last year, meant Smit was redeployed from shareholding company Richmark Holdings to hold the SSG fort.

When he got to Ferreira’s seat, he saw the founder’s plans for the partnership with SA Rugby were complete. The baby was in the right hands. Smit wasted precious little time and stamped the deal.

In a time of austerity, load-shedding and budget cuts, Smit saw the forest for the trees.

“I can’t take credit for that because it was the brainchild of our previous CEO,” he says.

“I am delighted that I am a part of this and that things have worked out in such a way that made it possible. This was pioneered by Jorge Ferreira and supported by two other companies (Blu Approved and M4Jam) who made it possible.

“The unique positioning, the timing of my transition into SSG, I don’t think there would have been anyone else who understood what the Gold Cup means to this country and the communities that hold it dear.

READ MORE | Super Rugby In Sin Bin

“It’s hard to quantify that commercially because it is more of an emotive vibe. These communities have passionate people who stick with the game after school. They are the backbone because they are not playing for money.”

Indeed, if it isn’t a man atop his steed looking for a glimpse of the action, it’s a “tannie” (older woman) selling boerewors rolls on the grass bank. It’s kids running freely along the touchline, collecting balls that have been kicked too long and returning them to their hometown heroes.

It’s a second and third chance at the game for players who’ve been hooved by professional rugby’s cut-throat contracting system – such as MB Lusaseni, College Rovers captain and former Lions lock. It’s a combination of all these factors that make a mineworker spend his or her free time in the hot sun, absorbing the Gold Cup.

-Sibusiso Mjikeliso

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HUGO BOSS Partners With Porsche To Bring Action-Packed Racing Experience Through Formula E

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Brought to you by Hugo Boss

HUGO BOSS and Porsche have partnered to bring an action-packed racing experience to the streets of the world’s major cities through Formula E.

Formula E is known for its fascinating races globally. The partnership will have a strong focus on the future of motorsport. In doing so the races will host a unique series for the development of electric vehicle technology, refining the design, functionality and sustainability of electric cars while creating an exciting global entertainment brand.

HUGO BOSS which boasts a long tradition of motorsports sponsorship – has been successfully engaged in the electric-powered racing series since the end of 2017.

In this collaboration, HUGO BOSS brings its 35 years of experience and expertise in the motorsport arena to Formula E, as well as the dynamic style the fashion brand is renowned for.


Alejandro Agag (Formula E CEO) and Mark Langer (HUGO BOSS CEO)

Mark Langer HUGO BOSS, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) says that though they have been working successfully with motorsports over the years, he is exceptionally pleased that as a fashion brand they are taking the cooperation to new heights.

“As a fashion brand, we are always looking at innovative approaches to design and sustainability. When we first encountered Formula E, we immediately saw its potential and we are pleased to be the first apparel partner to support this exciting new motorsport series,” he says.

The fashion group is also the official outfitter to the entire Porsche motorsports team worldwide.

The fascination with perfect design and innovation, along with the Porshe and Hugo Boss shared passion for racing, inspired Hugo Boss to produce the Porsche x Boss capsule collection.

Its standout features include premium leather and wool materials presented in the Porsche and HUGO BOSS colors of silver, black and red.


Porsche x BOSS: introducing a new collaboration | BOSS

Since March, a range of menswear styles from the debut capsule collection is available online and at selected BOSS stores. In South Africa the first pieces of the capsule will come as a part of the FW 19 collection.

Alejandro Agag, Founder and CEO of Formula E says he is confident that the racers will put their best foot forward on the racecourse.

“This new partnership will see the team on the ground at each race dressed with a winning mindset and ready to deliver a spectacular event in cities across the world. As the first Official Apparel Partner of the series, we look forward to seeing the dynamic style and innovation on show that BOSS is renowned for,” says Agag.


Hugo Boss x Porsche  

Oliver Blume CEO of Porsche AG says Formula E is an exceptionally attractive racing series for motorsport vehicles to develop.

“It offers us the perfect environment to strategically evolve our vehicles in terms of efficiency and sustainability. We’re looking forward to being on board in the 2019/2020 season. In this context, the renowned fashion group HUGO BOSS represents the perfect partner to outfit our team.”

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For Xolani Luvuno Its Mind Over Matter

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A story of hopelessness, drugs and crime and an athlete who conquered land and sea, on crutches. 

Xolani Luvuno will enter this year’s prestigious New York City Marathon flying the flag of South Africa, but this is no ordinary athlete; he will complete the run on crutches.

Luvuno’s story is one of hopelessness, drugs and crime, but then a life turned around in the most remarkable fashion as he became an ambassador for good; taking on, and defeating, some of the most grueling athletic pursuits on the planet. All with one leg.

Luvuno continues to defy the odds and, ahead of his journey to New York, will also compete in a full IRONMAN African Championship event, in April, which includes a 3.8km swim, a 90km bicycle ride and a 42.2km run.

That would present the mightiest of challenges for an able-bodied athlete, but Luvuno must do all of that having had his right leg amputated 11 years ago, after he developed cancer in the bone.

Xolani Luvuno’s right leg was amputated 11 years ago, after he developed cancer in the bone. Picture: Supplied

The 34-year-old has already proven his superhuman mental and physical strength after completing the 89km Comrades Marathon on crutches last year, and followed that up by completing a half IRONMAN event in East London in South Africa earlier this year.

“I started running as a distraction from the substance abuse that had gripped me earlier in my life; it focused my mind in other areas and gave me a purpose,” Luvuno tells FORBES AFRICA.

“The events are one part of it, but the training is what helped me the most. In the townships, a lot of the drinking and alcohol abuse happens over the weekend, and that is when I would go running. I would head out with my crutches in the morning, and by the time I had finished, I would just crash at home and sleep the rest of the day.

“It provided me with a new interest away from drugs and alcohol and motivated me to do something with my life. I really needed a change at the time, and running provided me with that.”

Luvuno’s teenage years were difficult. Falling into the grip of substance abuse, he ended up living under a bridge in Pretoria and spent five years in jail, having been convicted of housebreaking.

Xolani Luvuno and Hein Venter at Comrades finish. Picture: Supplied

He would beg, steal and borrow to fuel his drug habit, before his life was turned around by a chance meeting with Hein Venter, at a traffic light in 2016, who took pity on Luvuno.

Venter gave him a job in his perfume factory and it was from there that his running career was born.

“I could see his potential and I wanted him to meet new people, away from his old life. Good people, normal people who he could use as role models,” Venter says.

“We created a running club within the company and, literally overnight, two-thirds of the employees took up running. It was amazing! Xolani had his challenges, but he didn’t want to miss out and started to go out with them too.”

Venter arranged formal accommodation for Luvuno in Mamelodi and had a prosthetic leg made.

He was later sponsored with a running blade, an attachment for his leg that should have enabled him to compete with able-bodied athletes. But, as a result of the long-distances involved in marathon running, he began to develop sores and returned to running with crutches.

But his progress was incredible, and within 18 months, he was lining up in one of the world’s most famous road races, the Comrades Marathon, albeit five hours before the scheduled start of the race, completing the event in 15 hours and 50 minutes.

“I always finish a race, no matter how long it takes me, I will never quit,” Luvuno says. “I always want to push myself further, to break down new barriers. After I completed the Comrades, I needed a new challenge.

“That is when I turned to IRONMAN, though cycling and swimming were completely new to me. But after four or five months of intense training, of really hard work, I was ready.

“Now I want to complete a full IRONMAN in April, that is my next challenge, and after that, it is the New York [City] Marathon. My entry for that has been accepted, it will be an amazing experience.”

Xolani Luvuno giving motivational talks. Picture: Supplied

Luvuno’s story is an incredible tale of triumph over adversity and how, even in the depths of despair, there is always the opportunity to change the situation. He is now also a motivational speaker, mostly sharing his story with school children, many of them handicapped themselves.

“It is something I have a passion for, it allows me to give something back,” he says.

“There was a time when I was not society’s ally and I accept that, but that is in the past now and I can only look forward to the future. Maybe my story will help some youngsters gain perspective and take on the valuable lessons that I have learned.”

-Nick Said

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