By Joel Omotto in Munich, Germany
African players are few in the Bundesliga because most of them lack the discipline to succeed in Germany. That is the verdict of Bayern Munich legend Giovane Elber.
Elber, who made 169 appearances for Bayern, and scored 92 goals while winning four Bundesliga titles and one UEAFA Champions League says Germans are well oraganised people and it takes sacrifice and discipline to succeed in the country, something most African players struggle with.
“You need to lean the culture, language and be discilined to succeed here. Most Africans and South Americans do not succeed here because they lack these,” Elber told a group of Africans journalists who were on tour of the iconic Allianz Arena (Bayern’s home ground) courtesy of pay TV giants StarTimes at the weekend.
The Brazilian gives an example of Ghanaian legend and former team-mate Sammy Kuffuor who had a stellar career in the Bundesliga, winning several titles with Bayern and is credited with opening doors for Africans players to the German top flight.
“Kuffor had the passion, he bled Bayern and always had the will to win and that is why he succeeded. That s what African players need to perform here because talent alone is not enough,” added Elber.
Elber’s sentiments are shared by Ghanaian-born German Kwamena Odoom who now works as an ambassador for the Bundesliga in Africa.
“It is not easy here especially if you do not speak the language and I must be honest most coaches try to avoid those kind of players because they prefer the ones they can easily communicate with. However, If you are willing to integrate into the culture, something that many African players find hard, then it becomes easy,” Odoom told the African scribes after witnessing hosts Mainz ease their relegation worries by hammering fast-fading RB Leipzig at the Opel Arena on Sunday.
Since the days o Kuffo at the turn of the millennium, several Africa players have featured in the Bundesliga and currently, there are close to 60 with a citizenship of an African country contracted to 16 of the 18 Bundesliga teams.
Liverpool-bound Naby Keita of Guinea and Leipzig, Ivorian Salomon Kalou who plays for Hertha Berlin and Nigerian youngster Victor Osimhen of Wolfsburg are some of the biggest African stars currently plying their trade in the German top flight but there have also been other big names such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who left Borussia Dortmund to join English Premier League side Arsenal in January as well as Cameroonian Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting currently at Stoke City.
All these players have succeeded because they had discipline and youngsters intending to realise a football career in Germany be warned, there are no short cuts.