Geremi: My Vision

Geremi: My Vision

Geremi Nijtap, the former Chelsea and Real Madrid midfielder, is one of four new board members at FIFPro. He has led the Cameroon players union since last year and is now the new African representative on the global board of the world players union. He will officially join the global board in December along with former AS Roma and Italy midfielder Damiano Tommasi, Swiss lawyer Lucien Valloni and ex-Australia national-team player Francis Awaritefe.


There are now many former players on both FIFPro's global and African boards...

We’re sending out exactly the right message to high-profile footballers everywhere, not just here in Africa – to give their time serving their national associations or unions, either while they’re still playing or after they’ve retired from the game. Players at the top of our sport enjoy rewarding careers and win lots of silverware. That opens doors to roles in politics and the media. I believe we should be using our status to help our fellow players, too. Sometimes that means putting yourself in harm’s way – speaking up for what you believe in and making your case loud and clear. But, honestly, it’s worth the risk. I’m all about defending the rights and interests of African footballers. I won’t shy away from danger. 


What do you mean by that? 

Here in Africa, players still don’t have the recognition they deserve – especially when it comes to pay. There are too many countries where players don’t even have contracts, or where contracts are simply ignored. That applies to some FIFPro Africa members, too. It’s simply unacceptable.


There’s a long list of players who haven’t been paid for a long time, in some cases more than a year. Yet nobody – CAF and FIFA included – seems bothered by this. Yet the moment a manager’s wages go unpaid, FIFA threatens to exclude the country from international competitions.


Why should it be any different for players? Why doesn’t FIFA put pressure on federations when member clubs ride roughshod over players’ rights in the same way? Everyone knows what’s happening, but nobody does anything about it. It’s gone on for too long.


Do you think people will listen to you?

I really hope so. We’re having frank, constructive talks with national federations and CAF. In 2011, we signed a memorandum of understanding, heralding the dawn of a new, closer working relationship with the African confederation that can only be good for African football as a whole. It’s still early days, but CAF president Ahmad Ahmad seems willing to let us make our case on behalf of players across the continent.