Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New Website (sort of...)!

Main Author: Hassan Fofana Sports Consultant & Field Agent Contact: time2ballinc@gmail.com Twitter: @Time2ballinc Facebook: facebook.com/Time2Ball

We are so excited to launch our website that we could not wait to iron out all the kinks. We want to connect with you now! time2ball.com will be launching very soon. So, in the interim, we invite to check out: http://time2ball.weebly.com/ 

We look forward to hearing from you!

http://time2ball.weebly.com/

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Main Author: Hassan Fofana Sports Consultant & Field Agent Contact: time2ballinc@gmail.com Twitter: @Time2ballinc Facebook: facebook.com/Time2Ball

We apologized for the silence however we have two article/discussion topics coming up soon:

1-  Amateur vs. Professional Sport
2-  Kobe Bryant vs. Lakers and Dwight Howard

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Kobe Bryant’s Legacy in the Next Two Years

Main Author: Hassan Fofana Sports Consultant & Field Agent
Contact: time2ballinc@gmail.com
Twitter: @Time2ballinc
Facebook: facebook.com/Time2Ball

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Kobe Bryant’s Legacy in the Next Two Years

 On August 23rd, jersey number 24, Kobe BRYANT, aka “the Black Mamba,” will celebrate his 34th birthday. Entering his 17th year of a very successful professional career, ladled with great accomplishments, Kobe Bryant is now approaching the end of his career despite being still relatively young compared to most veteran athletes. Furthermore, as athletes grow old, typically there is a regression in their performance which makes me believe even more that Kobe Bryant is far from retirement. Last year, with 1,161 games under his belt, Kobe was competing against one of the most prolific scorers in the NBA, Kevin Durant, for the NBA scoring title, a title that Durant had won for the past three years. Regardless of your outlook on Kobe Bryant’s character, putting aside all of the off-court controversy and concentrating on his ability as an athlete on the court, one can recognize the man’s dominance. It is true that his off-court activities has affected his interactions with his teammates and coaches; however, one thing that everyone who knows or has worked with Kobe Bryant can attest to is his will to win and his incredible work ethic.
         Although Kobe Bryant has not shown any sign of slowing down, it is safe to say that the Black Mamba is not as lethal as he once was; however, because of his announcement, after winning another gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics, that he definitely would not be participating in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, this indicates that he is approaching the end of his career. I can honestly see him retiring after winning one or two more championships. Look, I am not going to make any bold predictions, but with the addition of Dwight Howard, the Lakers are a serious contender to win the west and, in my book, they will give Lebron James, Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade and the reigning Champions, the Miami Heat, a run for their money.
As a side note, Kobe Bryant understands that the walls are closing in on his opportunity to win another championship and I am certain that within the final two years left with his Lakers contract, Kobe will improve his position on the all-time NBA scoring list when he surpasses number 4, Wilt Chamberlain. Kobe is currently the 5th on the list with 29,484 points. Defeating Chamberlain is no minor feat as he scored 31,419 throughout his career and he is the only player to ever score 100 points in a single game nearly 50 years ago. Kobe follows Chamberlain with 81 points in a single game in 2006 when he and the Lakers destroyed the Toronto Raptors.
        Nevertheless, assuming that the new Lakers, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, stay injury free throughout the entire season, I predict that LA will win the 2012-2013 NBA Championship. And, if my prediction comes true, this will be Kobe’s 6th ring –  two more than big man rival, Shaquille O’Neal, and equal to Michael Jordan. This is even more interesting as Kobe is also in a great position to surpass Jordan, who is currently 3rd on the all-time leaders in points scored with 32,292 pts. From an early age, Number 24 has always looked up to and measured himself and his game against his idol, Michael Jeffrey Jordan, aka “Air Jordan,” but with only 2809 points between these two scoring beasts, it is possible for Kobe to surpass M.J. this season. More realistically, however, I believe it will happen early next season unless the Lakers win it all this year. Now, if everything I envision happens as planned, how will Kobe Bryant’s legacy be defined in comparison to Michael Jordan if he surpasses MJ in points and have more than or an equal number of championships as him?

                   
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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What's Behind the Number of Athletes Per Country In The London Olympics

Main Author: Hassan Fofana, Sports Consultant & Field Agent

Contact: 

  • Email: time2ballinc@gmail.com 
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What's Behind the Number of Athletes Per Country in the 2012 London Olympics

                                                           By Hassan FOFANA

To start, I want to point out that this year’s summer Olympics opening ceremony in London was very disappointing for me. After 7 years of preparation, I was expecting a certain creativity and originality to match or at least come close to the previous opening ceremony in Beijing. But instead what we get is a fake jump out of the helicopter by the 86 years old Queen Elizabeth pretending to be James Bond’s partner so that she can show her sense of humour. Spare me the corny joke and let us not make this Olympics all about the Queen. At the opening ceremony in 2008 Beijing, we only saw the president of China Hu Jintao once for a few seconds as he declared the events open. I believe that the Opening ceremony in London was too narcissistic of their history to the point that they forgot to make a real connection to the true reason for which billions of viewers tuned in their televisions - the Olympics.

What made the opening ceremony in Beijing so unique and memorable was their successful combination of a new era of innovative technology and skilful, masterful manual execution while looking back on the past history of their nation, ending in a connection back to the Olympics. By far, the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony is the best yet since I became a loyal fan in 1992. With the bar being raised to the highest standard by China, I will not waste my time comparing both ceremonies; however, I hope to see a better closing ceremony. Today, however, I want to focus on how certain developing countries, small in geographical size and population, have large numbers of athletes in the Olympics, whereas other geographically small countries with large population, for example, Mali, Niger, Benin, Togo, Guinea, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and amongst others have few representative athletes. Furthermore, I will briefly talk about the larger, richer and more powerful developed countries such as Germany, Russia, China, USA, Great Britain, France, Brazil and Italy, amongst others, regarding how they are able to maintain success throughout the years as a way to introduce my next forthcoming article on “Sport in China.”

Watching this year’s opening ceremony, as a sport consultant, the first thing that I noticed was the number of representative Olympic athletes for each developing countries versus that of the rich and powerful developed countries. The number of Olympians for each developing and developed country has a lot to do with its government’s commitment to sport and how funding is managed; however, it all comes down to the efficiency of the management team in charge of each national sport department. While the US, China, Russia, Japan, Great Britain, Italy, Brazil, Germany and France, amongst others rich and developed countries are being represented by 200 or more athletes in the Olympics, a significant number of developing countries such as Guinea, Togo, Zambia, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Tanzania, Nepal, Rwanda, Ghana, DR Congo and Equator Guinea struggle to send more than 10 athletes. This is due to these countries’ failure to develop and build around their individual niche sports.

One can argue that because of their wealth, structural support and easy access to what is necessary to be successful in sport, it will be a shame for the developed countries not to succeed; however, keep in mind that everything is a work in progress and, with a solid foundation and intelligence, these countries were able to build a strong, reliable base for athletes. Remember sport is now a major business and as the government you have to know your market and you must determine the Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat (SWOT) of your sport department nationally. With this analysis, you will find your niche. This is exactly what most rich and developed countries did before implementing the groundwork suitable to their individual cultures and philosophies combined with strong financial, as well as ideological, commitment from the top.

Take Russia and China as examples. Their governments have made their priorities to design a system to develop talented athletes, as well as to continue developing the process in order to ensure and maintain a bright future in their national sport teams. Many other developing countries that have imitated this ideology have found success and are continuously increasing their numbers of athletes present in the Olympics or other global sporting events. These countries include Nigeria, Jamaica, South Africa, Kenya, Senegal, Angola, Trinidad and Tobago, Algeria and Egypt. Looking at Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, they too found their niche in track and field to which they have committed to improve while simultaneously developing other sports such as swimming and boxing. In Africa, Senegal is an ideal model. They are currently developing their traditional wrestling, which is attracting a lot of attention from the sport world, while having significantly increased their presence across many other sports.

For most of these developing countries mismanagement of the budget designated to the sport department and lack of focus in the right areas are to blame for the limited sport development and Olympic representation by their respective countries. Most of these developing nations focus entirely on their most popular sports; most often soccer, and as a result other sports are neglected. With the stakes being so high in successfully qualifying for the Olympics, basing all your chances on one or maybe two sports makes the possibility of high or low numbers in the Olympics carelessly unpredictable. This is even truer for team sports in which either all or no athletes go. This is the reason why I appreciate and admire to some degree the American and Chinese systems of developing athletes.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Obesity Crisis Raising Some Thoughtful and Provocative Debates with respect to Sport Marketing

Main Author: Hassan Fofana Sports Consultant & Field Agent
Contact: time2ballinc@gmail.com
Twitter: @Time2ballinc
Facebook: facebook.com/Time2Ball

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The Obesity Crisis Raising Some Thoughtful and Provocative Debates with respect to Sport Marketing

by Hassan FOFANA

London 2012 Summer Olympic 27 July - 12 August

The 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing set the bar high in many ways, including stricter anti-doping testing policies, record breaking TV viewership of several hundred million, more than 40 world records, 130 Olympic records, breathtaking venues and sports arenas and the unforgettable opening and closing ceremonies. As a sport fan, I am anxiously looking forward to what London has planned for us.
It is quite rare for the summer Olympics to pass without the occurrence of any controversy or protest. In 1968, at the summer Olympics in Mexico City, African American US track and field 200m gold and bronze medalists, Tommy Smith and John Carlos, raised their hands in a black power salute from the podium to protest against any act of racism toward black people. In 2008, many politicians and celebrities announced their intentions to boycott the Beijing Olympics to protest China’s involvement in the conflicts in Darfur and Myanmar, as well as their political actions against Tibet. For a sporting event as massive as the Olympics, these kinds of protests and controversies are inevitable; however, the Olympics committee does a great job in separating the politics from the Games themselves. This year, the 2012 summer Olympics is at the center of a political debate regarding the obesity crisis and sports marketing.
The Olympics is one of the largest and most watched sporting events in the world and the Olympic committee’s acceptance of sponsorship from worldwide fast food chain leader, McDonald's, and soft drink producer, Coca Cola, knowing that they play significant roles in obesity and its related diseases has raised some thoughtful, provocative and ethical questions. This time, the 2012 controversy is directly linked to the management of the Olympic Games and requires a certain delicacy and diplomacy in order to both appease the sports fans, who are sensitive to the obesity epidemic and to honor their sponsorship agreement with McDonald's. While the Olympic Committee tries to figure out the best response to please those sensitive to the topic of obesity, as well as to maintain the righteous mission and image of the Olympics, the question one must ask is whether or not the Olympics has the power to solve the obesity crisis. 
For most, the summer Olympics is a significant and unique marketing platform that can capture the attention of millions of viewers all over the world, across 36 sports and 300 events. McDonald's and Coca Cola sponsorships account for a major portion, 40% in fact, of the revenues generated from commercial partnerships. Therefore, by rejecting the sponsorship of two long-time sponsors, since 1928 and 1976 respectively for Coca Cola and McDonald's, the Olympics will be placed in seriously risky financial situation.
Now the question is whether or not the Olympics is sending the wrong message by accepting these sponsorships? My answer is no for two main reasons. First, there is no doubt that McDonald's and Coca Cola play major roles in the obesity epidemic by mass producing and distributing high fat, high calorie, and nutritionally poor food and drinks; however, these companies have supported the Olympics for many years. During much of these past years, youngsters were more active and spent more time outdoors, Now, kids spend the majority of their time sedentary, either at home, in class, playing video games, watching television or online. Social networking is a major contributor to this culture change. Second, we are what we eat. It is a shame that the main populations targeted by these food corporations are children; however, as parents, we must have some kind of control over our children’s diets and daily routines.
What we do know is that obesity results from a combination of causes. These include: (i) Genetics and hormones, which have significant influences on one’s body weight; (ii) Consuming more calories than one burns throughout the day as the body stores excess calories as fat; (iii) Inactivity or laziness, which reduces the number of calories burned and one’s rate of metabolism; (iv) Poor diet and/or eating disorders, which causes individuals to consume food high in caloric value, but low in necessary nutrients, including vitamins, or causes unstable, highly fluctuating amounts of calories; and (v) Lack of sleep, which can cause hormonal changes that could result in increases in one’s appetite. McDonald's and Coca Cola play significant roles in the obesity, but they are not the sole cause of it. The Olympics Committee will not solve the obesity crisis by rejecting sponsorship from McDonald's or Coca Cola.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sport in Africa: The Government

For more information
Main Author: Hassan Fofana Sports Consultant & Field Agent contact: time2ballinc@gmail.com twitter: @Time2ballinc facebook: facebook.com/Time2Ball
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                                             Sport in Africa: The Government
                                                        by Hassan Fofana

The government is to blame for not implementing appropriate strategies and policies that will allow the African economy to flourish by taking advantage of the sport industry, worth over a billion dollars. It is clear that the African government has a lot on its hand, as Ghanaian Vice President Mr. Dramani Mahama would attest; but the least that they can do as lawmakers is to set standards and expectations that encourage wealthy individuals or successful major businesses to invest in sport. In the US, for example, the tax system is designed such that major corporations, as well as individuals, are encouraged to make charitable donations to non-profit organizations, not necessarily because they buy into the organizations’ missions, but because of the attractive tax deduction benefits. The African government can be similarly impactful in setting in motion a culture that expects significant financial investment in sport by governmental and non-governmental organizations and philanthropists.
At least some African government officials have taken steps to set such changes in motion. There is, however, much more work to be done. At the opening ceremony of the second Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Games in Ghana, Mahama, representing his Excellency the President of Ghana Mr. John Atta Mills, stated, “Sports have become big business in the world and, therefore, the private sectors can partner [with] government in sponsoring sports as government alone cannot promote sports in the area[s] of the provision of infrastructure and financing of teams to competition. Government has a lot on its hand, but with the involvement of the private sector, sports development would be given a massive boost. ” I appreciate the level of honesty from Mr. Mahama in stating that the “government has a lot on its hands…” Furthermore, I acknowledge and respect the fact that both the President and the Vice President are taking the initiative to become advocates for sport in Africa. Finally, the African youth have a voice in his Excellency Mr. Mills. The Ghanaian President called upon all African leaders to invest in sports in order to eradicate “…the social vices and wars plaguing…Africa and to use sports to promote peace and unity”. It is about time that we have an African leader who recognizes the power of sport. On behalf of the African youth, for sport and for the promotion of a business that could potentially create thousands of jobs, I appreciate this public statement of support. For that reason, I will grant them a pass; however, admitting that the African government has its hands full is an excuse that is unacceptable.
One of my idols, Mahatma Gandhi, stated "You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” I will strongly encourage both of them to be more than just advocates and, rather, take the necessary actions and be the examples of change by additionally implementing laws and policies at the continental level, as well as locally, that will get both the private sector and members of the government involved in the development of sport in Africa.
Africa is one of the largest and youngest populations in the world. Furthermore, amongst the international professional clubs and leagues of the majority of sports, including soccer, basketball, boxing, track and field, rugby and handball, one can identify at least two or more African athletes. Other countries have recognized and benefited from the potential of the African youth except Africa.
With all that said, let us get one thing straight. Talent alone does not develop sport in Africa; however, it is a start and the motivation is there amongst young, talented Africans wanting to work their ways out of poverty, towards college and professional sports. It is the lack of initiative from the government that prevents the African youth from excelling.  How the African government has failed to sufficiently invest in sports will be discussed next.
Entrepreneurship - Sport is a multibillion dollar industry that is supported by and supports countless businesses, such as sports clothing and apparel, advertising, food and beverage and broadcast media. African nations do not have efficient strategies that can encourage such entrepreneurship around sports. For the few entrepreneurs who create new businesses, they are over-taxed which eventually either results in failure of their businesses or relocation elsewhere. African youth can certainly benefit from growing up within a society with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. They will be innovative and competitive. 
Corruption and Incompetence of Government Officials - Corruption and incompetence plague countless ministries of sports throughout Africa. Each ministry is provided a large budget, but instead of spending the funds on what is actually necessary to develop the sport in the respective countries, government officials and leaders are more concerned with the size of their bank accounts, which expensive Western schools their children will attend or how many houses they buy their mistresses. These officials therefore spend their genius coming up with various strategies to spend less than 20, sometimes less than 40 percent of the budget on sports.
A side note about African government officials sending their children off to foreign Western schools: You would think that the members of the government will take the initiative to promote the local education system and show the population that the system is so damn good by sending their children to local educational institutions rather than promoting Western universities. Come on! Let’s be patriotic.
As an American, you are probably asking what is the checks and balances policy or better yet who audits these ministries? You might even look at it as a great thing because at least you will remain the most dominant in sport. Africans are as athletic as us Americans, but they don’t have the proper training, facilities or equipment to perfect their skills, whereas Europeans have these resources, but they are not as athletic. So, there is no need to worry.  As a European, you are probably saying that at least they are spending up to 40 percent of the budget on the designated target and, as long as they keep the embezzled monies in the Swiss bank, we don’t really care because soon we can leak the necessary information out to the public and they will do they rest, by that I mean supply them with the necessary information to create chaos amongst the government. At the end, we get to keep the money while the respective individuals try to justify how and why their bank accounts are full of millions of dollars when their annual salary is supposed to be less than $100,000.00! As an Asian, you just pray that Americans and Europeans continue to publicize the continent African negatively so that you can go in and pretend to be the good guy, while establishing yourself as the new colonizer, offering your poisonous aid. And, last but not least, as an African, you are probably saying, “What the fuck? This corruption shit has to stop and people need to stop thinking that they know our problems better than us.”  But you don’t want to take the initiative to protest because of the following reasons: (i) if you organize a protest, there is a high likelihood that it will turn violent; therefore, you will fail your mission; (ii) if the protest goes as planned and if they don’t kill you, you will most likely be offered some big $$$$ and hopefully a nice position in the government so you can keep quiet; or (iii) if the protest goes as planned and you are not killed or bought out, eventually people will lose interest or the government will pay you lip-service by making false promises and probably firing a few people so that people will calm down. The cycle will then begin again once everyone returns home because we, Africans, don’t hold our government accountable for their promises and performance. Now is the time, however, for Africans to begin to hold their government accountable and to stop settling for mediocre leadership. We need leadership that will make government officials competitive with respect to their performance, not their supernatural powers, and their leadership that will take care of the youth, protecting them rather than turning them into child soldiers. Government needs to usher children in sports, not civil war.
As stated above, the contributing factor to the underdeveloped sports industry in Africa is a combination of corruption and incompetence. Let us assume that I am wrong and that the various sport ministries in Africa do not have larger budgets to fund all the sports activities, including promoting and governing the local annual athletic championships at the professional, amateur or interscholastic levels, investing in local sports organizations and developing sport infrastructures (stadiums, training facilities and equipment). Let me quickly list three ways in which a ministry of sport can generate funding locally or globally, provided that someone within the government knows what he or she is doing. Three major industries that generate billions of $$$$ annually with respect to sport are broadcasting rights, marketing (advertising and sponsorship) and sales. Take the upcoming 2012 London Olympics as an example. According to a July, 2012 Financial Times article, broadcasting rights for the entire Olympics competition will generate $3.9 billion ; ticket sales are estimated at $1.04 billion; and, as for sponsorship, significant debate currently surrounds the Olympic committee’s decision to allow fast-food chain McDonald’s to continue sponsoring the games with mounting concerns about the global obesity crisis. I am sympathetic to the obesity crisis; however, the point here is that millions of dollars are at stake if the Olympics committee were to drop McDonald as their sponsor.
These numbers exemplify the profitability of the sport industry and the case that I am trying to make, that is that the African government needs to get their act together and put the necessary plans in place to start investing in infrastructures (sporting arenas, airports, roads, etc.) such that we can be competitive in applying to be the next host of a major global sporting event such as the World Cup, the Olympic games, the Goodwill Games, Wimbledon and others. Yes, I am aware that other Western or developed countries would never vote for an African nation to host such a massive event because they would not want to lose out on the significant financial opportunity in hosting the event themselves. It took far too long for an African country to win the opportunity to host the World Cup as South Africa did in 2010. This gives me a reason to believe that anything is possible if the African government focus their time and effort on taking advantage of this billion dollar business of sport. 
Government is not a Family Business
In this closing section, I am going to be brief, direct and bold to all of my fellow Africans. Africa is at the bottom of the shelf for many reasons; but one thing that is obvious is the fact that most of the government officials are incompetent. They spend most of the time in their offices pretending that they are working while either taking a nap or using the government property such as the phone or vehicles for personal reasons. Some come to work in the company of friends or relatives. Amongst lower ranked workers, some come to work late and leave early, but since nepotism has allowed them to work under their relatives as their bosses, other diligent and hardworking employees cannot or will not say anything at the risk of losing their jobs. The government workplace is not and should not be a family business. In this day and age, the sport industry throughout the world is very competitive because there are significant opportunities to earn funding through adverting, sponsorships, naming rights for sport facilities or championships and corporate partnerships, amongst others. To truly run a dynamic sports industry, you need to have the right candidate formulating and implementing the best strategies and initiatives that will generate revenue, move sports in Africa forward and help African youth capitalize on their natural talents and interests in sport.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sport in Africa: The Athletes

For more information about Hassan Fofana and his Sports Consulting organization, Time2Ball, Inc.:
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PART 1

Sport in Africa: The Athletes
by Hassan Fofana

For generations, sport has been a major part of African culture and youth’s daily activities. For many Africans, sport is viewed just as exercise to keep healthy, while for some, sport represents $$$$. The latter group is split in two. One group, young African athletes see sports as a major opportunity to enhance the quality of their lives by leaving Africa, heading off most of the time to Europe, for a chance to play professionally in clubs and leagues, and sometimes to the US to first become student-athletes, before exploring the professional sporting world. This career is very attractive. As a professional athlete, one can eventually perform on an international platform, representing one’s nation during the African Nations Cup or the FIFA World Cup. The second group is comprised of coaches, recruiters and other intermediaries who view sports as a way to make money by transporting the young athletes from Africa to countless countries around the world. Some African athletes are assisted in migrating to the U.S. by religious, charitable and outreach organizations who commit themselves to helping others; however, the most common route is recruitment. As African athletes begin their quest in the pursuit of happiness by aspiring to become professional athletes, one thing they fail to recognize is that they have very little control of their fate as players the minute they leave home. For African athletes who leave their native continent for Europe with hopes of pursuing professional careers in sport, often soccer (or football in every country except the U.S.), the journey is quite similar. Regardless of the path chosen to Europe, legally or illegally, and most of the time it’s illegal, the chances for success for African athletes are very slim for many reasons, despite their level of talent. Some African athletes face language barriers and social adjustment which are the easier challenges to overcome; however, more stagnating is that others lack a true sense of what it takes to be successful at the professional level. This latter point is complex.

Even for local “professional” athletes in Africa, the money and respect are minimal such that sports fans and even the athletes themselves view this work as a hobby. This causes a breakdown in discipline since coaches and trainers, who wish not to lose these few talented, on-the-verge-of-breaking-out-in Europe-or-America players, can only push the athletes so far without pushing them right off of the team, which is critical because having talented players like that on their teams is a privilege or represents $$$$ for them. As a result, ass-kissing and special treatment weakens the quality of training and the preparation for success at a professional and foreign level.

For other African athletes, who will succeed at the cutthroat professional level because they are imposing due to their athleticism, talent, or advanced skill, they too face a tough choice regarding their cultural and national identity. They must decide between keeping their specific native African citizenship or giving it up for naturalization in whichever country they reside at the time in order to shed the stress of immigration laws and restrictions and live their dreams as professional footballers in tranquility and peace without watching over their shoulders. As part of the deal to the naturalization process, some African athletes have to play for the national teams of the host countries. A perfect example of this is the French National Soccer team which, in the past, had more than half of their players originally from Africa. I was surprised to watch the French team in the Euro Cup 2012 with so few Africans playing on the field; but I won’t be surprised to see them reloaded with African players for the World Cup 2014 in Brazil since they have failed to advance past the quarterfinals this year in Poland.

As for those who refuse to give up their nationality and seek to accomplish their quest through other possible paths, their journeys often end with them being deported to their home countries. Some would run away before deportation and will end up struggling just to survive. Survive? Yes, because for most aspiring professional African athletes, they devote all of themselves to making it, including dropping out of school in order to focus on their athletic careers.

This is how most of the talented African athletes vanish into and along the way to Europe. Still, the number of African athletes who have found success, especially in soccer, is very small compared to those aspiring athletes who simply disappear. As far as those African athletes who were able to come to the US, the majority of them have similar career trajectories. There are, however, a few exceptional athletes such as Dikembe Mutombo, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Emeka Okofor, amongst others. It is mostly the basketball players who have been able to find success on high platforms, such as the National Basketball Association (NBA). There are many other African athletes who have gained tremendous success in other fields, such as the Major League Soccer (MLS) and the National Football League (NFL).

Nevertheless, the reality is that the US offers a unique opportunity to encourage athletes to pursue their education past high school before earning a chance to play professionally. There are, however, many discussions around the present rule that require the athletes to be at least 19 years old before being eligible to enter the NBA draft. I believe that this rule should be universal across all sports and not just here in the US, but all over the world. Take the case of Freddy Adu who turned professional at the age of 14. Don’t get me wrong! If I was in his place I would have strongly considered turning pro immediately, especially with all of the hype that he was getting. Believe it or not, I was a Freddy Adu fan. As a fellow native of Africa and soccer fan, I wanted to see him succeed; but the thing that kept bringing me back to reality was: Come on! Freddy is still a kid (14 years old to be exact) playing amongst grown-ass men.

Major League Baseball (MLB) rules allow drafted players to continue developing by participation in the Minor League. I must say that, at the time, I was not very familiar with the MLS draft rules, particularly whether or not drafted players were trained further in developmental club leagues prior to competition in the Premiere League and if Freddy had that option. Talent-wise, I believe that Freddy had what it took to be successful, but he was rushed developmentally and could definitely have benefited from college competition. Rather, in actuality, he failed to meet the high expectations set for him and, as a result, was traded from team to team. I still believe that Freddy Adu is a player with a bright future and will soon have a breakout season once he finds stability within himself, as well as on the field.

In summation, my perspective is that requiring athletes to attend college for 1 or 2 years before being eligible to enter the draft for the NBA, NFL or any other professional team is necessary in order to support the development of the athletes. This rule does have significant implications for basketball and the leagues involved namely the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the NBA; however, this is a topic that I plan to address in the future.

Athletes buying-in to the concept of being NCAA student-athletes or amateurs while showcasing their potential here in the US are an option that most African athletes that end up in Europe do not have. As NCAA athletes, young African athletes will not only develop their skills; they will also cultivate their intellect. This is a win-win situation for both the NCAA and the universities. With the increase of African student-athletes, both institutions can increase the diversity amongst their student populations, as well as promote higher education en route to professional sporting careers. As for the athletes, they complete their higher education and preserve their opportunity to pursue their professional careers here in the US or elsewhere around the world.

By no means at all I want to suggest that African athletes who choose to come to the US have it easier than those in Europe; however, I am insinuating that although it is extremely hard to come to the US as an African, once here, the options are far better than they are in Europe. And don’t get me wrong, I am not familiar with all of the options in Europe; but I speak based on the personal stories from friends and family that have experienced these situations first-hand. Although the path taken in the pursuit of happiness here in the US is slightly different, it does remain dangerous in some ways. Specifically, its danger is due to the US industry being more of a cutthroat business. By this I mean, you have sports agency paying off scouts or coaches to travel to Africa in order to recruit the best players they can find with greater chances of breaking out and hopefully making it into the NBA, MLS, MLB. On one hand, this action is very positive and, on the other hand, it is negative. It is great because the Americans are giving these young and ambitious athletes the chance to live their dream; however, because these players are enslaved in their own dreams, they are also very vulnerable to financial exploitation. By the end of their high school and college sports careers, the athletes end up being responsible for an inordinate amount of money to whomever is their sponsor, that is whomever was responsible for bringing them to the U.S. in the first place. Often, the individual serving as the intermediary will request and receive money on behalf of the players without his or her knowledge. Then, they are blindsided by a debt developed in their name and from which they did not benefit. Can you blame these young athletes? The only thing they did wrong, was wanting to enhance the quality of their lives. Regardless of which paths are chosen and eventually traveled by these African athletes, they all enact incredible courage, determination and ambition to succeed in life.

One final note, I believe that involvement in amateur athletics while completing one’s college education before pursuing a professional sporting career gives the student-athletes something to fall back on in case they fail to make it as a professional. After all, realistically only 1 out 16,000 high school student-athletes successfully make it to the professional level in sports[1]. This statistic underscores the importance of young people completing their education throughout college in order to have a successful and fulfilling life outside of professional sports.

There is plenty of raw athletic talent in Africa. With the right coaches who are truly committed to the development of their athletes and who possess sound knowledge and skill, these athletes can go far and prosper. Finally, if the local African governments will invest the necessary support, financial, infrastructural, or otherwise, that the athletes need to continue their development right there in their native countries, we can prevent the loss of this raw talent from Africa to Europe and the U.S. Government investment will enable the creation of an international platform from which local African athletes can showcase their talent and, when sufficiently developed, progress towards the professional teams overseas. Government involvement will also keep a watchful eye on recruiters and coaches, circumventing corruption and abuse of young, vulnerable athletes for monetary gain. Nevertheless, I want to end this article by briefly introducing my next topic of discussion by stating that the African governments have major roles to play in sport in Africa not reaching its potential.

Note: In my article, I refer to the continent of Africa as if it was a country when, in fact, it is not; however, this is my way of promoting PAN-AFRICANISM.

[1] National Association for Sport and Physical Education (2012).  Estimated Probability and Competing in Athletics Beyond the High School Interscholastic Level. http://freedom.mysdhc.org/guidance/information/From%20High%20School%20to%20Pro%20Statistics.pdf?plugin=RWD&Templates=RWD&printversion=2