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Sports: Touching Lives Beyond the Facade of Materialism

Sport is one of the largest markets in the world. It rakes in so much revenue on an annual basis. Data collated from The Business Research Company reveal that the global sports market reached a value of nearly $388.3 billion in 2020, having increased at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.4% since 2015. Even though the market declined from $458.8 billion in 2019 owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, it indicates the income value in spite of the inundating challenges in the year.

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The game of football is one of the biggest global sports. Analytics show that it tops major sports like Basketball, Tennis, and Athletics, in all countries measured, as it is the dominant sport in South America, Europe and Africa. Statista reveal that in terms of revenue and overall level of competition, Europe is the most prominent soccer market in the world. Professional soccer in Europe generated as much as $28.9 billion for the 2018/2019 season. The Union of European Football Association (UEFA), which is main administrative body for soccer in Europe, generated total revenue of 2.8 billion Euro last season. In Europe, the five biggest leagues (English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, German Bundesliga, Italian Serie A and Ligue 1) account for half of the market, with the top 20 teams making for one-quarter of the market. According to Statista, the combined revenue of the five big leagues in the 2020/2021 season is projected to amount to more than £18 billion.

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Sportspersons constitute much of the list of people that earn the most across the world. An average annual player salary in the sports industry according to Statista is 8.32 million for the NBA. Indian Premier League, an annual cricket competition, follows with 5.3 million dollars. Major league base ball and the English Premier League follow with an income of 4.03 million and 3.97 million respectively. The other football leagues which form part of the Big Five, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, peak at 6th, 8th, 9th, and 10th position respectively, with an income of $2.55, $2.33, $1.98, and $1.3. Sportspersons such as Cristano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Roger Federer, and Neymar, are some of the highest-paid in the world, especially with the recent published Forbes List. The question that is therefore pertinent is that in the midst of plenty, how much is given back to the society. This perhaps captures the story of some footballers who not only believe in winning on the pitch alone, but also in affecting lives outside the pitch.

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While some of the footballers love to splurge their fortune on luxury, a few have taken up the course of giving back to the community. Sadio Mane is a perfect example. The Senegalese who doubles as a player for Liverpool FC has always given back to his immediate community. In an interview with a Ghanaian Outlet, the 29-year old Premier League winner opened up about his roots. He insisted he doesn’t need luxuries to be happy, which further informs why he dedicates much of his wages to charity:

“Why would I want ten Ferraris, 20 diamond watches or two planes? What will these objects do for me and for the world? I was hungry, and I had to work in the field; I survived hard times, played football barefooted, I did not have an education and many other things, but today with what I earn thanks to football, I can help my people.

“I built schools, a stadium; we provide for those who are in extreme poverty. In addition, I give 70 Euros per month to all people in a very poor region of Senegal which contributes to their family economy. I do not need to display luxury cars, luxury homes, trips and even planes. I prefer that my people receive a little of what life has given me.”

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Sadio Mane

Many of them who are known as today sport stars came from poor background and understand what it means to be “stranded”. If one were to give a list, it would run like a recurring decimal. The likes of Maradona, Messi, Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo, Sadio Mane, Rashford, and a host of others, are living proof. For those who spearhead humanitarian and other intervention programs therefore, background has always informed their activities.

Marcus Rashford, who recently received one of Britain’s highest honors for his incredible humanitarian work, highlights the efforts being made by sportspersons in giving back to the society. He has publicly spearheaded campaigns on the issues of homelessness and child hunger in the United Kingdom, and has been praised for using his platform to be a political activist and drive societal change. Early in the year, during the COVID-19 lockdown imposed in the United Kingdom to contain the spread of the virus, Rashford teamed up with the poverty and food waste charity fare share to deliver meals to those in the greater Manchester area who no longer receive their free food meals. This is including children who attended communities’ centers and school breakfast clubs. The initiative was successful. Subsequently, the 23-year old player, in an open letter to the UK government, stressed on the need to end child poverty. The response was received in a day and the policy was reviewed.

Marcus Rashford

Rashford isn’t the only footballer who has embarked on various humanitarian projects. A fair number of players donate huge amounts of money and time to various charitable organizations, though most of them do it privately. Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the most generous. He was named the most charitable sportsperson of 2015. Two years before, he was named in the UEFA Team of the Year, winning £89, 000, but immediately donated it to the Red Cross. A year later when Madrid won the Champions League, rather take his £450, 000 bonus he donated to charity. Ronaldo doubles as an ambassador for three major charities, Save the Children, Unicef and World Vision.

Wilfried Zaha, Crystal Palace star, also had won an award for his charity work. He cupped the Best of Africa Award for Philantropic Endeavour at the Best of African Awards last year. He was acknowledged for his incredible gesture of donating 10% of his monthly wages to charities in his home country. Juan Mata established Common Goal designed to get footballers to donate wages. Mesut Ozil, Mohammed Sallah, Jermain Defoe, and Hector Bellerin have also done a lot for charities.

Wilfried Zaha

Sportsperson in the boxing industry have also made notable efforts. A more recent one is when Mike Tyson came out of fifteen years retirement to face Roy Jones in a boxing fight intended for charity. The fight ended in a draw as both boxers treated audience to an exciting match that saw them go full eight rounds in the exhibition. Speaking after the match, Tyson said, “This is better than fighting for championships. We’re humanitarians now. We can do something good for the world. We’ve got to do this again. I would absolutely do this again.” He maintained that the proceeds from the match would go to charity. He and his rival were guaranteed to make $1 million from their meeting, but in the words of Tyson, “it’s going to be for various charities.”

Tennis Legend, Roger Federer, is one to admire for his humanitarian efforts through his Roger Foundation aimed at improving life of kids in Africa. Apart from spending money, he spends quality time with the kids and inspires them. A statement attributed to him states that “donating money is great but spending time with those poor kids is something only immortals can do.”

Roger Federer

Because of all these, football and by extension, sports, can be considered as the best education you can give anybody as it teaches and promote love, respect, tolerance and empathy. But while one cannot force the hands of altruism, it is important to see that it forms the very core of humanity, that is, our existence as human beings. The ability to give back and improve the world having attained certain heights is premium and should be embraced by all and sundry even outside the sports industry. In this regard, credit has to be given to the likes of Bill Gates who is constantly using his wealth to improve the world and fight major problems offsetting humanity, particularly in Africa. Efforts by sportspersons and other stakeholders who have embraced humanity through their foundations and various intervention programs reflect Sadio Mane’s position. It says that “no matter your status and progress in life. We have to take up the challenge of rendering both morale and financial support to our people. And it is my belief that such gesture can go a long way in solving their problem.”

Nelson Okoh
Olamide Samson

Categories: Features, Sport

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