Football and cricket are two of the most popular sports in South Africa. The very best athletes in these different disciplines can go on to make life-changing sums – but they will have to leave the rainbow nation to do so.
Thirteen South African footballers have played English Premier League football. By far the highest-profile of those is Benni McCarthy, who won the Champions League with Porto under Jose Mourinho before having spells with Blackburn Rovers and West Ham United. Then there’s Steven Pienaar of Ajax, Borussia Dortmund, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur, and Sunderland fame.
McCarthy was on a reported £38,000 per week at West Ham. At the time, the exchange rate with South African rand put his weekly wage at around R500,000. That works out at an annual salary of R26,000,000. Upon moving to Spurs in January 2011, former Bafana Bafana winger Pienaar penned a deal reportedly worth £50,000 (around R700,000) a week and so his yearly income was R36,500,000.
These are huge sums of money which an ordinary person in South Africa can only win if all their lotto numbers come up. Should you win the top prize, then you could be in the same ballpark as McCarthy and Pienaar. In fact, to compare with Powerball that has a biggest ever payout of R232,131,750.69, their wages pale in comparison to international lotto events. We are talking about a small but select few footballers from South Africa that make it in top European leagues with wages in domestic soccer somewhat less.
Cricketers come in behind soccer stars
In cricket, meanwhile, the megabucks are in the world famous Indian Premier League – a limited overs competition with a Twenty20 format on the Subcontinent played in March, April and May. Plenty of players who have proudly worn the Proteas jersey have turned out in the IPL in recent years.
Leading those South African cricket stars is AB de Villiers. The popular and aggressive batsman held an IPL contract worth over R20,000,000 with Royal Challengers Bangalore after first playing in the competition with Delhi Daredevils (now called Delhi Capitals). Not bad for just two months’ work.
De Villiers has twice reached the play-off final of the competition with that franchise, first in 2011 and again in 2016. Many of his international teammates also followed suit without the valuable central club contracts that footballers aboard have.
South Africa allrounder Chris Morris has played for three IPL franchises. He too reached the final in 2013 with Chennai Super King, then returned to the Subcontinent in 2015 with Jaipur franchise Rajasthan Royals and Delhi then offered a sizeable sum for his services in the 2016 IPL auction.
That led to a contract worth a tidy R12,500,000 for Morris. Again, it’s below what footballers earn and the same can be said of pacey Proteas bowler Kagiso Rabada. The leading light of South Africa’s attack has always been tailor-made for the IPL. Delhi brought him in to play alongside compatriot Morris in 2017. Although he missed the 2018 IPL with a back problem, Rabada reportedly netted a R7,700,000 contract.
It’s clear that when it comes to elite sportspeople, footballers still hold an edge over cricketers with their pay packets.