DITHAKO NAKEDI, the Deputy Editor of Jambo Africa Online, profiles a cohort of soccer stars who acquire academic qualifications to be well-rounded professionals…

 Soccer is undoubtedly one of the most leading and prestigious employers in the world today. A lot of millionaires are made in this sport that dates back over 2000 years ago. To make it big in the game, machismo, skill, and sharpness are required prerequisites. Indeed, behaviour on and off the field of play may guarantee one a lifelong appreciation by the connoisseurs of this most popular sport in the world, that does not necessarily need formal education.

However, a handful of soccer players across the world have gone out to defy the odds, and mix brawn with brain.

Footballers are mostly considered as people with poor academic background since several actors of the beautiful game find it difficult to combine it with studies.

However, there are a few that displayed impeccable standards of play in soccer and went on to make various achievements in formal education.

Nearer home in South Africa, Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Brylon Petersen is the latest soccer player to complete his degree in Mechanical Engineering at Wits University.

Petersen, 24, joined Chiefs from Wits University in 2016 after impressing in the Varsity Football tournament and continued his stud- ies which stretched over a duration of six years in total.

With football as his main source of income, the talented shot-stopper will now be covered for life beyond the game with the mechanical engineering industry proving a lucrative career path.

His university degree entails designer power- producing machines in the automotive, aerospace, biotechnology, computer and electronics and automation industry.

But Petersen isn’t the first one. He follows in the steps of a few others across the continent, who decided soccer wizardry was just not enough to provide long term social security.

But Petersen isn’t the first one. He follows in the steps of a few others across the continent, who decided soccer wizardry was just not enough to provide long term social security.

Ghana, one of Africa’s leading soccer nations has about 9 known football players with university degrees. They include among others, Joseph Tetteh Zutah, William Opoku Mensah, Abel Manomey, Ebenezer Opoku, Abdul Aziz Suleiman, Ebenezer Ackon, Dennis Kwodwo Korsa and Emmanuel Addington.

As if not to be left behind, South Africa also has its fair number of university graduates who make a living from running behind the oval leather ball. They include among others, Percy Tau, Daine Klate, Mpho Maruping, Pogiso Mahlangu, Lehlohonolo Majoro, Tefu Nashamaite, Nhlanhla Shabalala and Sean Roberts.

Africa is actually a football playing continent since time immemorial. Every single country in the continent has one or two, even more soccer players with university degrees. While we may not have a fixed number at this point in time, this publication can however confirm that there are few of those in every country, including Nigeria, Senegal, Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo, just to mention a few.

According to reports, the entire world has its pool of learned soccer players, with Juan Mata of Madrid leading the pack as the most educated soccer player.

Among the most educated in the world, are:

  • Juan Manuel Mata García, a Spanish professional footballer who plays as a mid- fielder for Premier League club, Manchester United and Spain’s national team. He mostly plays as a central attacking midfielder, but he can also play on the wing.
  • Clark James Carlisle, an English former professional footballer who played as a defender and was chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association. Born in Preston, he began playing football at a young age, taking inspiration from his father who played semi- professionally. He is a graduate of Sttarforshhire University in London.
  • Yuto Nagatomo, a Japanese professional footballer who plays as a full-back for Ligue 1 club Marseille and Japan national team, and IA an Economist From Meiji University, and
  • Romelu Menama Lukaku Bolingoli, a Belgian professional footballer who plays as a striker for Serie A club InterMilan and the Belgium national team. Born in Antwerp, he began his professional career at Belgian Pro League club, Anderlecht, in 2009, where he made his senior debut, at age 16.

Lukaku is also said to understand German and Swahili, as well as hold a degree in tourism and public relations. Observers argue that it is important to make a living from playing soccer, but ensure that you have something to fall back onto, just in case. The idea, they say, has been ignited by the number of financially broke former soccer stars also growing behind scenes.