By Saddick Adams, Munich (Germany)
Former Brazilian striker and Bayern Munich legend, Giovani Elber says, unlike Ghana´s Sammy Kuffuor, many African players have struggled to succeed in the Bundesliga because they lack the discipline and organization to adapt.
The Brazilian said without mincing words, that Africa undoubtedly is endowed with incredible footballing talents, but insists that alone is not enough to succeed in the German environment.
Elber, who won the UEFA Champions League with the Bavarians as well as four Bundesliga titles in 169 appearances with 92 goals, says it is extremely difficult for players from other continents, particularly Africa and South America, to adapt to the highly organized German culture of discipline.
Speaking in Munich to a group of African journalists currently on tour of the Bundesliga, the FC Bayern Global ambassador reiterated that, the ex-Ghanaian defender epitomizes a true professional, whose ethics need to be emulated by prospective footballers who want to succeed at the highest level in the Bundesliga.
“Every time I am asked this question, my only answer is Kuffuor. I say this because his kind was different from other (African) players from there. Ever since he came here, you see he had the talent and technique, but also quickly had to learn the language, culture and ultimately he was very disciplined.
“His passion was so intense, that sometimes he cannot imagine losing a game, and would go every length to win. He can hit his body anywhere. Like you saw (during the 1999 Champions League final) punching the ground after the game. Sometimes, you have to go to him and say hey Kuffuor, calm down, calm down. But that was the man".
“Kuffor had the passion, he bled Bayern and always had the will to win and that is why he succeeded. That is what African players need to perform here because talent alone is not enough,” added Elber
“You need to learn the culture, language and be disciplined to succeed here. Most Africans and South Americans do not succeed here because they lack these,” Elber told a group of African journalists who were on tour of the iconic Allianz Arena (Bayern’s home ground) courtesy of pay TV giants, StarTimes at the weekend.
Journalists interacting with Giovani Elber at the Bayern Museum
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.
Meanwhile, Ghanaian-born German Kwamena Odoom, who works as an ambassador for StarTimes and the Bundesliga in Africa, says communication barrier has been one of the hindrances of many African players.
“It is not easy here especially if you do not speak the language and I must be honest most coaches try to avoid those kinds 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.
The German Bundesliga has a long-standing connection with African players and there are currently nearly 60 footballers of African descent, contracted to 16 of the 18 Bundesliga teams.
Kuffour spent 11 seasons with Bayern, rising from the youth teams to be a prominent first-squad member who lifted the UEFA Champions League with the club. He was an integral part of the squad that won the 2000–01 Champions League, also scoring the winning goal in the 2001 Intercontinental Cup, being subsequently named man of the match.
He is fondly remembered by most football fans for famously beating the ground in frustration afterwards, following Bayern´s painful 1-2 defeat to Manchester United in the 1999 UEFA Champions League final, a gesture that endeared him to Bayern supporters.
Ghana | Atinkaonline.com