As children we all heard this question at least once from our parents or teaches; “What do you want to be when your grow up?” I wanted to be a pilot. My brother Andrew, who is blessed with a wicked sense of humor, said he wanted to be a thief with such a straight face that my Dad laughed off what would have been a sure public flogging.
Anyhow, I imagine these were all well meaning attempts to encourage us to dream big. Unfortunately, that is where it stopped. Thereafter, I struggle to remember anyone deliberately guiding us into breaking down our big dreams into the small steps we could take to reach our goals.
So, we just chugged along getting distracted or conditioned by what was convenient, until all our dreams became redundant. This then is the story of most of us and we shouldn’t expect our footballers to be any different.
Just this week, in a move that can’t be dressed up as progress by any stretch of the imagination, we learnt that Farooq Miya was being loaned out by his club Standard Liege to Sabail FC in Azerbaijan!
There have been many before him, who after early promise, have faded so consistently that a trend starts to emerge. The common thread that weaves its way through all these cases is a clear lack of career guidance.
We encourage our boys to dream and then abandon them to a life in which they are unable to link their day to day responsibilities to the big picture. We are then quick to judge them on their deprived upbringings, arguing that this colors their outlook to life. That they have low ambition.
But who is teaching them that social mobility comes with the kinds of challenges that can divert a man from his dreams? Who is teaching them that technical ability alone won’t be enough? Who is teaching them that stress is inevitable and that it shouldn’t be an invitation to act up or withdraw?
I will tell you what. We could borrow from Ghana Ivory Coast Germany or France. They have all built half-way houses in which they offer formal training on matters of career choice and management to their footballers. The key theme in these schools is that attitude and sacrifice are just as important as technical ability. Not everyone from these schools prospers. But then again not everyone falls through the cracks.
I know that this will not automatically teleport a kid from Kawempe from one social class to another. I also realize that this can end up being discriminatory especially if the selection to such a school is arbitrary. But we must start somewhere and it sure beats being judgmental once promising careers derail.
As you will have noticed by now, I never got to fly a 747. But unlike me who didn’t even start, our footballers, have already made the first step. We shouldn’t limit them to what Andrew insightfully saw as a joke, all those years ago.