Football is arguably the most popular sport in the world, with a global primary sphere of influence and having an estimated following of more than 4 billion people.
The sport has also changed over time, developing into one of the most lucrative sports in the world.
Money has become the currency that the game trades in and is involved in almost every aspect, ranging from huge salaries to image rights and sponsorship deals.
Fast cars, yachts, and glamour have become part of the day-to-day lives of professional players that have attained celebrity status.
But in the midst of all this, a good number of players, both active and retired have found a way to give back to society and run various charity organizations to that effect.
David Beckham, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mario Balotelli, Mesut Ozil, Neymar just to name but a few, have all been engaged in different charity activities.
It's no different with African players who have had the chance to play at the highest levels. Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto'o, Nwankwo Kanu, Freddie Kanoute, Michael Essien and recently Sadio Mane have all given back to society and helped put a smile on hundreds if not thousands of families.
Eto'o was recently in Tanzania to launch a football academy project together with musician Naseeb Abdul Juma, popularly known as 'Diamond', while Drogba is set to visit Kenya's Northern area of Samburu soon for similar projects.
Here are some of the top players and their charity works.
The former Chelsea and Ivory Coast striker is arguably one of the best strikers the continent ever produced. He enjoyed immense success with the West London club, and for his native country, he is more than a hero.
Through the Didier Drogba Foundation, the 41-year-old has built hospitals, schools, and orphanages for his people. He is also remembered for his role in ending the five-year civil war in his country back in 2007.
His charity work is not limited only to his country, as he plans to visit Kenya soon going by his social media post.
Can’t wait to come visit you my Samburu girls @josephinekulea Can’t thank you enough for dedicating your heart for these beautiful girls.— Didier Drogba (@didierdrogba) January 9, 2020
Keep up the great work ♥️ 🇰🇪 #empoweringwomen #africa #together pic.twitter.com/cAgywKOSj2
In 2015, he was presented with a Barclays Spirit of the Game Award for his charity work across the continent.
The Cameroonian is the most decorated African footballer of all-time. The former Barcelona, Chelsea and Inter Milan star ruled both the African and European soccer stages during his prime years.
He also showed his class off the pitch with an invaluable contribution to bettering the lives of many African children who needed basic needs and helped young boys with dreams of conquering the world, just like he did.
Just like Drogba, he has been involved in many charitable organizations including offering scholarships, providing quality education, health, and medical facilities across the continent.
He recently announced that he will help set up a football academy in Dar-es-Salaam, which will cater to East Africa's budding footballers.
The most complete Ghana export to the football world. The 'Bison' had a highly successful career playing for Chelsea, winning numerous titles and scooping individual accolades.
He was a beast in his days, and he transferred the same energy to off-pitch matters, helping his hometown of Awutu Bereku with healthcare facilities, clean drinking water, public toilets and libraries all under his Michael Essien Foundation.
He creates opportunities, hope & inspiration for the underprivileged, and mainly concentrates on children all over Africa.
He is known for organizing charity matches, notably 'Game of Hope', a charitable football match played annually featuring a team of African stars and another representing players from Europe with the proceeds going to his foundation to keep the projects running.
The Liverpool star man and 2019 Africa footballer of the Year is one of the most humble footballers. The 27-year-old's journey to stardom is filled with sad but conquered moments. He has not allowed money, fame and his status get into his head, and he spends a lot of his money to help families back in Senegal.
“Why would I want 10 Ferraris, 20 diamond watches, or two planes? What will these objects do for me and for the world? he recently said.
“I was hungry, and I had to work in the field; I survived hard times, played football barefooted, I did not have an education and many other things, but today with what I win thanks to football, I can help my people.“
True to the above, he has managed to build a school in his homeplace, Bambali, as well as a hospital and mosque for his community.
He has also in the recent past donated old Liverpool shirts for children to wear in places like Malawi and other African countries.
The Kenyan captain and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Victor Wanyama has also had an impact in Kenya, helping a number of budding talents with much-needed soccer equipment.
He recently bought a bus for two clubs in the Nairobi East County League; Country Bus FC and Muthurwa Boxing Club.
Country Bus is where he honed his skills and he revealed how pleased he was to give back to the club that gave him the ground to build on his career.
Back in 2018, the midfielder initiated the Wanyama Royal Charity Cup tournament that gave a number of young players the platform to showcase their talent as well as learn on the importance of investing in a healthy lifestyle.
He has also been involved in other projects including donating some cash to the then cash-strapped AFC Leopards to help in paying players' salaries.
Mo Salah is currently one of the best footballers in the world, and just like his Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane, he has not forgotten where he started.
In 2019, he donated US$3 million towards the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Egypt to help restore its facilities after a terrorist attack.
In 2018, he spent $450k on land for a desperately needed water treatment plant in his home village.
Mohamed Salah has agreed with his father to donate 5 acres of land to his local village in Basyoun where he was born to build a sewage station for his people. A world class footballer but even a better person.— DaveOCKOP (@DaveOCKOP) April 26, 2018
📸 - (@youm7) pic.twitter.com/xuobGzFhYd
Apart from the above, Salah has initiated other charity projects in his home-village Nagrig, including an Al-Azhar institute and an ambulance unit.
The Kenyan international, who plays for Belgian side Cercle Brugge is one of the best midfielders the country has.
He has defied all odds to make it to the top, and he has not forgotten his past. His Johanna Omolo Foundation is giving hope to the Dandora community where he grew and honed his skills.
He started a soccer academy in 2017 that nurtures talent and is involved in educating needy children for the semi-formal settlement in Dandora.
Sanitary towels for girls in many African countries is an issue, and he has included it in his charity work.
Omolo won the prestigious Fifpro Merit Award for his community work in 2019, an award that came with a Sh2.5 million cash prize.
The former Mali international had a successful career moving through England and Spain but will be remembered for his time at Sevilla.
As part of his giving back to society, Kanoute launched an initiative to establish a children's village, called SAKINA, in Bamako (Mali).
Sakina combines several services and facilities for the needs of orphans and destitute children.
The project consists of a school, a kindergarten, a center for vocational training, a health center, a small building for administration and facilities for sport and leisure.
Kanu led a new generation of African footballers that took over the world in the mid and late 90s, and he went the extra mile to put smiles on many African people's faces.
He was diagnosed with a heart defect while at Inter Milan, and after a successful recovery, he set up the Kanu Heart Foundation in Nigeria to tend to children suffering from cardiac ailments.
Since the foundation was founded in 2000, hundreds of children have received open-heart surgeries and treated to other related ailments.
Plans to expand the services are ongoing as he intends to reach out to a bigger number across the continent.
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