FOR Marvelous Nakamba, booking his family into five-star hotels is no longer an issue.
His parents regularly fly to Europe and his father Antony now shuttles between Lusaka and Bulawayo in pursuit of business interests. The football star can even afford his parents the honour of being chauffeur driven as was the case when the Zimbabwe national team hosted Botswana in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Harare on November 15.
The 25-year-old Nakamba, who could only manage four O-Level subjects at Njube High School in Bulawayo, is now arguably one of the highest paid footballers in Southern Africa following his move to English Premier League side Aston Villa on August 1.
With a weekly wage of about US$71 000, Nakamba is one of the emerging rich Zimbabwean footballers, most of whom are living large. Some are splashing money on expensive cars while others have ventured into international businesses.
Khama Billiat, who earns R10 million (US$676 400) per year at Kaizer Chiefs; Knowledge Musona, who is reportedly taking home about US$100 000 per month in Belgium and Nyasha Mushekwi who has raked in millions of dollars in China, form part of this rich football gang.
Marshal Munetsi is also earning decently in the French Ligue 1, so is Tino Kadewere at Le Havre in France and Teenage Hadebe who has settled well in Turkey. Hadebe now has a transfer market value of about US$500 000 following his move to Turkish top flight side Yeni Malatyaspor on July 14, 2019.
However, there is no doubt that Nakamba, with a monthly salary of around US$281 168 — roughly ZWL5 million when converted using the official interbank rate — is now one of the richest people in Zimbabwe. If he wants to, he can even afford to buy about 20 core houses in his childhood high-density suburb of Mpopoma in Bulawayo every month end.
He earns roughly US$9 472 per day, enough to buy two good second-hand Toyota Wish vehicles at most of Harare’s car sales. His hourly return of US$395, which is about ZWL6 320, is enough to pay one term fees for 210 students at Chirimamhunga Primary School in Seke.
As a result of this huge fortune, Nakamba’s down-to-earth mother, Charity Ngwenya, has had to be on the lookout for her son.
“We always tell him that this is his future, we will die and he will take care of his siblings, we always encourage him to make investments. He has already bought us a big house in the affluent suburb of Sunninghill in Bulawayo and we are thankful for that.
“As the mother, I also want him to marry wisely, right now he has a fiancée, Chipo. They grew up together in Mpopoma. A very humble girl, she is the one I have endorsed,” she said.
Big striker Nyasha Mushekwi has raked in millions of dollars since moving to China in 2016 and recently splashed US$120 000 on a 45-seater luxurious bus for his former club Caps United.
Former Warriors player George Mbwando hailed Mushekwi’s gesture in a Facebook post last Monday.
“Well done young man, very inspiring to young footballers. You now easily join the ranks of Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o, Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and many more who remember their roots. Big up to you!” posted Mbwando.
Mushekwi’s extravagant engagement ceremony with his Swedish girlfriend Arsema Ghebrehiwot also rocked social media in January.
The couple, who had been on holiday in the Seychelles, took an expensive helicopter ride to one of the Indian Ocean Island’s most stunning spots, between mountains, for the engagement ceremony. The Seychelles Mountains are synonymous with expensive helitours for some of the world’s rich and famous.
Khama Billiat, who is the highest paid footballer in South Africa with a monthly take home of about US$34 834, recently launched the Khama Billiat Foundation, which donated sporting equipment and sanitary pads at his former school Gwinyiro Primary in Mufakose.
Billiat has also been known to be extravagant when it comes to his choice of wheels while his fashion taste has always attracted media attention both in Zimbabwe and South Africa where he turns out for Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs. He got social media abuzz in August when he posted his US$170 660 Range Rover Sport Lumma CLR RS, one of the numerous top-of-the-range cars that the Mufakose-bred star drives.
Manchester City striker Sergio Augero is one of the world stars who drive the same car as Billiat.
Stade Reims player Munetsi, who grew up in Mabvuku, has also launched a foundation to assist kids in the high-density suburb, while Nakamba is also toying with the idea of launching his own in Hwange where he was born back in 1994. Could this be a signal that we could soon start seeing more money from these rich boys trickling back into society?
Despite earning far much less than the likes of Nakamba, Munetsi, Mushekwi and Billiat, 23-year-old Kadewere is said to be spoiling his family a lot these days. Apart from buying a house for his mother, Kadewere also bought a car each for all his siblings, a fact confirmed by his brother Prosper.
He also sponsors a football tournament in Highfield, pays school fees for needy kids in the high-density suburb and buys groceries for a local old people’s home during every Christmas holiday.
Former Warriors captain Willard Katsande is known for his love for sleek cars, but also sponsors an annual tournament in Sakubva, Mutare.
The big question is what are these football stars doing with their huge figures?
Last Tuesday was International Men’s Day and BBC Sport looked at sportsmen who have been involved in charity work.
France’s 20-year-old star Kylian Mbappe, who earns about US$2,5 million per month at Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea legend Didier Drogba, Liverpool striker Sadio Mane and Juan Mata of Manchester United are some of the football stars heavily involved in charity work.
Mbappe grabbed the headlines when he revealed just before the 2018 World Cup finals that he was giving his £17 000 per match appearance fees to a charity initiative providing sporting activities for disabled children.
Mata, who earns about US$168 000 per week, donates one percent of his salary to charity, while Drogba has been building hospitals through the Didier Drogba Foundation in his home country, Ivory Coast.
Mane, who rakes in around US$129 000 per week at Liverpool, donated £200 000 to help build a school in his home country Senegal early this year and has already been involved in the building of a hospital in the West African nation.
Former Caps United and national team player Alois Bunjira thinks Zimbabwean football stars like Billiat and Munetsi should be commended forploughing back to the community.
“Usually, this happens out of passion and humanity. For that I applaud them,” says Bunjira, adding, “There are so many disadvantaged children who are always looking for assistance. If one is in a position to assist and does that, then the nation and the universe will benefit.”
However, not all football stars look into the rear view mirror and think of where they came from. Some blow money in top-notch night clubs, others are renowned womanisers while some bet their way to poverty.
Wanisayi Mutandwa, who runs Mahwindo Foundation, said there is nothing wrong with the boys ‘balling’, as long as they invest wisely.
“They should look at what the likes of Benjani (Mwaruwari) have done with investments in the United Kingdom, France and South Africa. They should follow (Nyasha) Mushekwi’s example of giving back to the community and the club that raised him.
“They can have all the fun they want as long as they do not end up as beggars on the street or die paupers. They need good management, not just agents, but people that handle their investments and philanthropic affairs,” said Mutandwa.
Former England talisman Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne’s name quickly comes to mind when riches-to-rags stories are told.
Gazza made millions of pounds during an illustrious career that took him to Tottenham and Lazio before featuring for England in the 1990 World Cup semi-finals. However, upon retirement, Gazza’s life has been dominated by severe mental and emotional problems emanating from alcoholism.
Rich footballers have also fallen prey to ladies who are always scheming to lure them to bed, usually for monetary gains.
England television personality, columnist and former escort Helen Wood was once quoted by the Daily Star narrating how girls prey on their victims, in this case English footballers.
“This is a profession to these girls — they will snuff out where the footballers are and head over to that club. They are known in the industry as table whores. I’ve known girls who have checked out the fixtures to see who’s in town and monitored the scores to see who will be out celebrating that night so they will recognise them,” Wood said.
It also happens locally.
There are some up-market ladies who are always trailing these rich Warriors players whenever they come home during holidays or for international games.
“It’s easy to notice a group of footballers in a club. They always want a big table, some want VIP enclosures,” said a Harare lady who refused to be named.
Yet, there are other footballers or former players like former Zimbabwean captain Benjani Mwaruwari, who despite their liking for the bottle, have maintained their wealthy status —years after retiring.
Mwaruwari played in South Africa, Switzerland, France and England, where he still owns properties.
Football has become a major industry and one of the most rewarding sectors in the world.
You have to look at Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s mega earnings to appreciate just how rewarding it is. The pair, which sits on top of world football, earns an estimated US$712 784 each per week, enough to buy struggling Castle Lager PSL side Mushowani Stars’ franchise and remain with over US$400 000 change.
The top earning player in the English Premier League is Manchester United and Spain goalkeeper David de Gea, who rakes in about US$485 000 a week.
Arsenal’s out of sorts forward Mesut Ozil earns about US$452 031 per week while Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling is at about US$387 455 per week.
Paul Pogba is the fourth highest earner in the EPL with a weekly wage of about US$374 540.
Liverpool and Egypt star Mohamed Salah earns about US$258 000 per week at Anfield and is the highest paid African footballer in the EPL.