Sports

Mikel Obi And The Burden Of “Black Tax” For African Footballers

Critics argue that the term oversimplifies complex financial relationships...

John Obi Mikel Black Tax
John Obi Mikel [Forbes Africa]

What is “Black tax”? Well, it is a term used in South Africa to describe the financial responsibilities placed on successful individuals from black households. It refers to the expectation that they provide financial support to less fortunate family members, stemming from the historical and systemic inequalities faced by black communities. Critics argue that the term oversimplifies complex financial relationships and should be seen in the broader context of addressing systemic issues rather than placing the burden solely on individuals.

John Mikel Obi, the former Super Eagles and Chelsea midfielder, has lifted the lid on the financial challenges and exploitation that many footballers face from their family members and acquaintances across the continent.

The 2013 African footballer of the year made this revelation about the pressure of “black tax” during an interview on the Rio Ferdinand podcast “Vibes With Five”.

Obi said, “You get threatened by your own blood, your own. When you come from Africa, and this is something 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. Yeah. You know, and your sisters, they go off and they get married to some guy who just wants to get married to John Obi Mikel’s family because my life is sorted. And then you start looking after this guy.

“Before you know it, you’re looking at them. They keep having so many kids and so many kids, and you look at it, okay, you’re having this many kids, who’s going to look after them? It’s you.

“For them, you owe them that. So, sometimes you have to be strong and say, you know what, guys, enough is enough, I don’t care. They give you this thing whereby, if you don’t do it, we’re going to go to the press. Oh, wow. After all, I’ve done for you guys. But this happens a lot.

“In Africa, I’m telling you, not everybody comes out and speaks about it, because we’re thinking, how are we going to talk about this?” As expected, the interview has generated mixed reactions from Nigerians on the Internet, with many accusing the retired star of egocentrism in the phase of poverty in the country and others have drummed support for him.

However, the interview by Obi does add to the precedent of other African football icons who have raised similar concerns in the past.

In 2017, it could be recalled that Emmanuel Adebayor, the former Arsenal and Togolese striker had revealed he was driven to suicidal thoughts because of the way in which his family attempted to “manipulate money out of him”.

“I felt like killing myself so many times. I kept this to myself for years and years. I am disgusted that things reached this stage, but I feel relieved to have talked about it”.

“I often change my phone number so that my family can’t contact me. They call me, not to ask how I am, but to demand money. That was the case after I injured my hamstring while with Tottenham”.

“They rang me while I was having a scan to ask me if I could pay a kid’s school fees. At least ask me first how I am before you do this!” a bewildered Adebayor lamented. The two stories mentioned above are certainly not the only ones. There are others. Victor Osimhen of Napoli and Nigeria last month was in the news for a similar situation from his brother-in-law. Though Victor has not not spoken to the media about it, it would not be bad to assume that many African football icons may be going through serious bullying and other manipulations from their families and friends which should be condemned entirely

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