Football requires ‘cultural shift’ towards social capital

31 Jul, 2022 - 00:07 0 Views
Football requires ‘cultural shift’ towards social capital football

The Sunday News

Each and every player active or retired has a story to tell. And their stories are almost the same if not the same – complaints, bitterness, anger, and fighting among ourselves.

But we all need to realise that all these problems are caused by a lack of social capital within the football fraternity, more so among football players. Before we are footballers, we are human and part of a society and this society has a way of doing things – footballers are not exempt from this.

Social capital defined as an ability to act cooperatively towards a common goal plays important economic role. Football and footballers have a role to play and are a key contributor in strengthening social capital. Social capital itself provides for individual development and provides indicators for the process of internalisation and socialisation of the social capital on the individual players.


Social capital is more important than money -money comes and goes but it’s about who you know and how you handle your relationships or the people in these relationships. In return this will determine how much they will be there for you whenever you need them. People will ask what and how you handled yourself when you were a superstar and this is how you are judged.

Lot of the time, these issues affect footballers’ mental health.

This very important aspect of a footballer’s DNA has been ignored and is the major contributor to problems faced by footballers whether in yesteryear or presently. Once we are able to address these issues, we will then be able to find solutions that, as footballers, we are always complaining about or raising in various forums.

If we respect social capital and respect for the moral fibre, then it is easy to either get help or to offer help. This is the only way we can tackle the very divisive problems between active and retired players which is the only way we can then even begin to resolve these issues. Only then will we be able bridge the gap between active and retired players.

Once we are able to appreciate the need for recognition of social capital, we are guaranteed that at least one generation will say enough is enough and begin to work towards mending relationships and building new ones. Only then will footballers be able to help each other unconditionally.

This one generation that will be able to say enough is enough will be the one that remembers that whatever problems, challenges, success and failures that an active or current footballer is facing is the same as was faced by a yesteryear footballer, and when they say enough is enough, they will begin to give respect to the predecessors who will also acknowledge that their time in the sun is past and support those that are active at the time. And only then we all begin to work together for the greater good.

The gap between current and former players needs to be shortened. Active players need to acknowledge that they can learn something from the retired players. For example, when a player is dropped from a team they struggle mentally – but this struggle has been faced by everyone who has dared step foot on a football, field. So, all it means is that together – young or old – we can help each when these situations arise.

For example, in hip hop, a superstar like Rick Ross may ask one person to feature on a track and that becomes their breakthrough. This can be done in football also if we respect social capital.

Rick Ross

Organisations within football need to do more to tackle mental health.

I think the game requires a cultural shift to get to grips with the issue as well as the introduction of a few mental health advocates. Both active and non-active footballers suffer from depression because of a variety of reasons such as injuries, being club less, not being paid on time or at all and many such issues that are part of a footballer’s life, and for retired footballers, what to do with themselves once their playing careers have come to an end.

We need to be championing the power football has in supporting people through struggles with their mental wellbeing and this is something that has been close to my heart for a while. Having been involved in the football industry, not only as a player but in the different aspects I am in now, it just feels like a very natural fit for me and some of my peers to consider actively pursuing mental wellness among footballers – past or present.

I’m someone who is concerned about mental health within football a lot, so I would like football to get together and to be able to get the message across in a new way through developing campaigns which cut across the entire landscape of football, not just professionally. There’s just so much to it and so much importance around it.

I think when it comes to campaigns around mental health it can be difficult at times because there’s not always a tangible outcome. It’s very much about awareness, understanding and trying to shift the culture and perspective. A lot of people are trying to do a lot of incredible things within this space, and it’s just another thing that’s allowing the dial to be shifted towards our understanding of what mental health is and how we can use sport and football to better that.

Mental health and the conversation around it is more prominent than ever in football and sport in general. But are organisations like our FA and the Football Union of Zimbabwe (FUZ) doing enough?

I don’t believe one specific group is failing to pull their weight, rather that the industry as a collective isn’t doing enough, despite obvious improvements in recent years.

I think every organisation can – and should – be doing more. I don’t think that is necessarily any specific organisation. As I’ve said very openly and very publicly in the past, I don’t think every organisation is doing enough.

Every organisation is doing a lot, but is it enough at this current stage? Probably not. Firstly, it’s about trying to catch up to where we need to be because I think the initial problem was that we were so far behind in terms of resources and understanding.

We are trying to catch up that, but we’re not doing enough. Nobody is doing enough. Is what we’re doing enough to help people to the degree that they need to be helped? Not quite. But we’re headed the right direction.

The game has come in leaps and bounds since I retired years ago but we’re still not quite there in society, but particularly in football. Something I noted years ago, and is still the same today is that when we speak about mental health, it should be taken in much the same way as someone like Paul Pogba or someone at that level speaking about mental health and what’s going on in their life and their emotions – when they’re both taken in the same way regardless of circumstance – then we’re in a place where it’s fine.

For me, it’s a matter of trust and understanding between the player and the club when discussing mental health. It’s such a trust thing.

The thought process is ‘can you [the club] trust that they’re going to perform. Can you trust they’re going to show up? Can you trust that he’s not going to be out for six months in a mental health facility or unable to handle the pressure?

God bless and let’s keep loving football!

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