Cambodia's African Footballers: Fever Pitch

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Cambodia's African Footballers: Fever Pitch

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Fever pitch
From our print archive: While soccer players all over the world aim for Europe's big leagues, many end up struggling to make ends meet in some of Asia's low-budget championships
WHY WE WROTE THIS: Because professional sport is not just about extravagantly-paid globetrotters.
Marta Kasztelan
October 28, 2019

Editor’s note: A year ago yesterday, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the Thai owner of Leicester City, was killed along with four colleagues in a helicopter crash. Vichai’s bankrolling of Leicester’s surprise 2016 English championship win remains arguably the best-known Southeast Asian intervention in one of Europe’s big leagues, where big-name talent from all over the world congregate, drawn by big money and the prospect of glory.
But back in Southeast Asia, as this story from our print archive shows, footballing migrants and journeymen, many from Africa, languish in the region’s lower-profile, lower-budget leagues.


Tomasz Eszua is slumped on a leather sofa in the living room of the Phnom Penh apartment he shares with two other Nigerian footballers.

It is 3pm. Usually at this time the 29-year-old and his roommates would be at football practice, training despite the blazing heat. But today is different.

Instead, Eszua is watching a football match on a small plasma TV while the Notorious B.I.G.’s “You’re Nobody (Til Somebody Kills You)” blasts from a stereo system and rings out across the neighbourhood.

It is difficult to hear with the thump-thump-thump of the tune shaking the room, but just after the chorus Eszua says: “They told me they won’t be renewing my contract because I gained too much weight after my knee injury.”

Before losing his job as a striker with the National Police Football Club, Eszua was one of 18 Nigerians playing in the Metfone Cambodian League, the country’s top division.

His is one of many tales of Africans migrating across the globe in pursuit of every footballer’s dream – joining the ranks of an elite European football club.

Unfortunately, these journeys rarely end on the old continent.

Eszua left Nigeria for South Africa in 2008. He played in the top divisions in Mozambique, India, Thailand and, most recently, Cambodia, where he landed in 2012.

Since setting foot in the Kingdom, where he was told by a recruiter that he’d be playing in the Samdech HE Cup – a competition only open to Cambodian nationals – he has already played for four different teams.

Like many economic migrants, once in Cambodia Eszua was confronted with the harsh realities of the country’s developing football industry.

According to Nigeria-born Western University FC coach Ken Gadaffi, the lack of employment security and meagre wages are the norm.

“The clubs usually issue six-month contracts that they can terminate whenever they want. And they don’t need to give players compensation or take care of them when they are injured,” he said.

As for the salaries, Gadaffi reveals with a sigh that foreign players are paid between $200 and $800 per month.
Full article: https://southeastasiaglobe.com/cambodia ... obscurity/
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