The 13 million euro man

13 Jun

Apparently, being a football player is quite rewarding… You get to be a star and if you score, people will love you to the end of time… additionally, you could earn a lot of money. Needless to say, not all the aspiring Zidanes out there get the bulk of euros… but they keep on dreaming, and kicking that ball made out of plastic wrap and cello-tape.

I read that football is a people’s game, anyone can play, no field required, no special ball, no minimum heighth or maximum weight A “democratic” game…

It so happens that at times, one of these kicking kids gets through the net holes and actually gets the million euros contract. The present captain of the Cameroonians is the one. A pay check that no one in his family and neighborhood had ever dreamt of.

Now, he tries to use his fame and money to do “something” for “his” society. The poor kids back in Douala who dream to play but can’t run. He pays for their medical care, he invests in their studies and so on.

It reminds me of my solution to get rid of poverty when I was a hungry kid with a vast horizon of hopelessness in front of me. My best bet was to open “free” supermarkets, let people fill up their shopping trolley and that was it, that was as far as my solution to “save” the poor people went. I was 8 years old. I never thought money was a key to anything. As far as I could see, money was a devil, I never saw it, but feared people who had it. So, my dream included getting rid of the power of money… as I said, I was 8.

The 13 million euro man is not 8 anymore, but he still holds on to the same dream. Bring poor kids to Europe to get all fixed up and all dreamt up, and send them back home to the slumps and smile in the mirror. I don’t mean to be dramatic, or spit on a good deed, but what does this kind of action achieve for society as a whole?

I have had the same type of conversation with friends over the years. They tagged me of capitalism and cynicism, but really, at the end of the day, what does one rich man achieve by taking kids out of their daily routine, showing them an impossible dream and fitting them back in the same hole they were -before he noticed them- with a pat on the back?

Would it not be better to show them the beauty of their homeland, the possibility of making a difference AT HOME? Would it not be better to stop showing them Europe as a land of magic (even if it works for one or two individuals every twenty or thirty years), and to teach them instead how to live/work at home and get somewhere?

Everyone flees the sinking boat, but what about it if the millions of natives worked together to get it back on its legs?

I remember a student in Yaounde, calling onto European so-called generosity to give money for their university. The main argument was that they did not “even” have toilets for thousands of students. This argument always angers me.
When I was a kid, we had no money, my parents had no time, they worked around the clock to make rent, my Mum made our clothes and we were ashamed of wearing these beautifully crafted special coats and dresses (how ungrateful!). But, every house we lived in had a clean bathroom and toilets. The day we moved in, my Dad always made sure he built or fixed the toilets, so that we would have one descent place in the house, the most important one. So, I have no understanding for thousands of young people who squat down behind their school buildings to do their business and ask money to build toilets.

This is a silly example, of course, but still a reality. When people wait for “free money”, magical donations, their only hope will be to get that money and run away to where it came from to possess some of this wealth. It is impossible! They come to Europe and many of them find it hard, cold, unfriendly. No one is there to welcome them and no one wants to help, as everyone else is also struggling, differently than in Africa, but struggling all the same. There is no paradise at the end of the road and only one 13-million euro man.

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Posted by on June 13, 2010 in Opinions


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