Emile Baron ‘not an isolated case’ and these need solutions: Safa CEO Motlanthe

Emile Baron turning out for Kaizer Chiefs in a Premiership match against Black Leopards at Thohoyandou Stadium in 2005.
Emile Baron turning out for Kaizer Chiefs in a Premiership match against Black Leopards at Thohoyandou Stadium in 2005.
Image: Lefty Shivambu / Gallo Images

South African Football Association (Safa) CEO Tebogo Motlanthe has applauded the kindness of fans in Norway who raised R2m for poverty-stricken Emile Baron, but said it’s not an isolated case and the sport in the country needs to look at permanent solutions.

Supporters of Lillestrøm SK, where Baron played from January 1999 to July 2004, and other well-wishers in Norway raised 1.1 million Kroner (R1.9m) to help the former Bafana Bafana goalkeeper and his family get back on their feet. This was after reports in the country of Baron reaching rock bottom.

Motlanthe pointed out that it is a common problem for many South African footballers to hit hard times after their careers have ended. He suggested it would be unrealistic for supporters of local clubs, in tough economic times in the country, to emulate the fundraising drive of far wealthier Norwegians, especially given there are numerous destitute ex-footballers in South Africa.

That wider problem is what needs addressing at the cause, and not the symptom, Motlanthe said.

“I think it’s not a one-off solution that’s needed. We need to ask: are we empowering the players so that when they finish their playing days they are still economically sustainable?

“And of course, as much as sometimes it sounds harsh, you can’t have a situation where you have someone who has played, got a lot of money and that money vanishes. It means somewhere, somehow [something has gone wrong].

“We are meeting with the [SA Football] Players’ Union to ask, ‘What do we do to equip players?’ Because it’s not an isolated case — you have many players who are in those dire straits.

“It needs all stakeholders in the country to say, ‘What do we do to educate players on financial literacy, how do we support players after they’ve finished playing?’.

“It is a good gesture by Norway, but is it sustainable? It's not. Because you have another player who only played locally and South Africans don’t contribute towards him — do you want to blame them and compare it to Norway?

“It’s important for us to come with permanent solutions. It’s a call to everyone, including clubs, and involves legislature.

“The players’ union has had exciting discussions around sports tax. Are we fair in taxing players the same way you do ordinary employees, because their career span is so short?

“Should the league [PSL] say, ‘Why don't we take some and invest it in the form of a pension’.

“This cannot just be ignored because it’s not isolated, and it’s something that calls all of us to action.”

Baron, 43, earned six caps for Bafana and was in goal for the South Africa Under-23 team that shocked Brazil 3-1 at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

He began his top-flight club career at Hellenic in 1999. After his five-and-a-half years at Lillestrøm he returned to play for Kaizer Chiefs from 2004 to 2009, then SuperSport United and Bidvest Wits.

His career ended when he broke his leg in a match against Orlando Pirates in 2013, and he then battled an infection to that injury and unemployment, at one stage working in construction.

Reports on the website of Norway's TV2 website of his relying on handouts to feed his family and being evicted from a one-bedroom house in Johannesburg South prompted a fundraising drive in that country led by Lillestrøm and their official supporters’ group, Kanari-Fansen.



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