Former Super Eagles midfielder John Obi Mikel has emphasised the challenges that many African footballers encounter after achieving success in their careers.
Mikel elaborates on the familial pressure that arises when a footballer attains financial success. According to him, the family often perceives a sense of ownership and entitlement to the player’s success, assuming that the player owes it to them.
In recounting a worst-case scenario on Vibe with 5, Mikel describes situations where the player’s sisters may marry opportunists and subsequently have many children, with the expectation that the player should bear the responsibility of caring for these children.
“When we come from Africa, and this is something that I don’t think we speak a lot about. When you make money, it’s not your money. You have all these relatives, cousins, whatever you call it. And your sisters get married to some guy who just wants to get married into John Obi Mikel’s family because then “my life is sorted”. You send money to your sister; the money goes to him, and he does whatever he does with it. This is something nobody knows about.
“So you get your salary, you say okay, now I’m going to put this aside for this person, put this aside for that person, put this aside for mum and dad. Before you know it, where is it? You get nothing.”
“And they keep having so many kids and so many kids and you look at it… Okay, you have this many kids; who is going to look after them? It’s you. They look out to you for you to look after the kids, your husband, and the husband’s family. And it becomes really and absolutely crazy. For them, you owe them that.”
Mikel revealed that he was in the same position until he decided to bring it to a halt about five years ago.
“So sometimes you have to be strong and say, You know what, guys, enough is enough. I don’t care. For me, that was five years ago; I said F it, no more. Because I’ve been doing this since I started playing football.”
“The reaction is you become the bad guy. They stop answering your phone calls,” he added.
He indicated that his agent advised him to stop giving more than he should to the family.
“My agent told me, ‘Mikel, you can’t be doing this. You killing yourself and you are killing them. Because all you do is give them, and they get so comfortable that they expect you to do that for the rest of your life. And I came to that point five years ago, where I stopped.”
The Chelsea legend further noted that when the player eventually musters the courage to set boundaries, the family resorts to threats of going public with their grievances.
“They will give you this thing whereby if you don’t do it we going to go to the press. What? After all that I’ve done for you guys?”
John Mikel Obi made the statement while discussing money management as an African footballer who is often focused on family, notably extended family.