Zambia’s soccer icon Kalusha Bwalya has advised footballers to spend their money wisely because football careers do not last forever.

Kalusha, the former Football Association of Zambia president, posted on his Facebook page advising football clubs to create mandatory pension schemes in a bid to curb destitution among retired footballers across the continent.

“I remember the first thing I bought when I received my first professional pay cheque in Belgium – it was a shiny black Golf GTI (Big deal in those days). I spent every cent I earned every month. The last of my worries was my tomorrow. In fact, during the three and a half years I spent in Belgium, I did not save a cent and I did not study anything. Problem is that football careers do not last forever. Our window of earning opportunity is short. I knew that after football, I wanted to still be involved in football and as such, I made sure I took coaching to the highest possible level by achieving a UEFA ‘A’ license to enable me to understand the technical side of football…I became President of the Football Association of Zambia, FIFA coaching instructor, FIFA committees, FIFA task teams, understanding the administration side of football,” Kalusha stated.

“Very few players continue to make a living from football after their final whistle blows, unless they become a ‘successful’ professional coach. But even coaching requires study and qualification. A former player does not automatically make a good coach. Those days are gone. With today’s game, you need to be qualified to understand the technical elements of the game.”

He stated that it is important to think about one’s future on the first day of professional football.

“In Belgium, retirement annuities are compulsory, the club pays for the full amount as part of your salary. In the Dutch Eredivisie, retirement funds which are tax deductible are compulsory, and as such after 20 years, I am still enjoying regular payments from my time in Holland. We hope that the clubs in Africa can follow the European model. There should be mandatory pension schemes for footballers in Africa. Clubs should seriously look into this for both the well being of their players as well as their own good reputation,” Kalusha stated.

He further challenged players to start think about their future as soon as they embark on their professional playing careers and to be wary of their spending habits.

“So many former players are faced with difficult times. You read and hear about this all the time, which makes me very sad and it is a question of lack of knowledge. Perhaps upbringing, education and lack of the culture of thinking about the future. When I was growing up, you thought that you would play forever, the limitations were non-existent. Retirement is not even in your mind…Unfortunately, today’s society tends to encourage the talent you have on the field rather than couple that with academic skills and qualifications,” Kalusha stated. “Education is encouraged and even in Zambia, you hear most of the professional parents discourage their kids to practice too much sport, saying that they want their kids to concentrate more on education. Unfortunately, this is a double-edged sword as this often deprives a talented player of much needed practice time. The key is a balance of the two. It is imperative for young players to ensure they attain their education goals whilst living their sporting dreams on the other.”