Djité says his mixed political sensibilities have come from wildly diverse life experience.
“Look, I’m a capitalist at heart,” he told Adelaide podcast Rooster Radio.
“It’s interesting because I’m a capitalist, and then I was on the board of the player’s association, which is very sort-of ‘union’.
“I’m African, I’m American, I’m Australian, I speak French, I speak Turkish, I speak English. I lived in Turkey, Muslim country. I know how Muslims work. I know the culture. I lived in China for a period. Chinese culture is completely different. I grew up in Australia, completely different. Western, developed.
“I was born in the [United] States and I’m African. I understand how corruption and only the top doing well and that capitalist work model works, because that’s how Africa is.
“That’s why you always have coups, and that’s why you always have civil wars, and that’s why people are still impoverished and things don’t trickle down.
“Then I also see in the States where maybe, in my opinion, it’s … a bit too far Right.
“…the rich there make so much money, and then they don’t pay any tax.
“And then the poor get paid so poorly. And then the middle class get – like the Australian middle class – they get squeezed.”
Djité says he has been inspired by the successful men in his life – principally his father, and billionaire one-time politician and former Gold Coast United FC owner Clive Palmer.
I’ve got a lot of friends that are politicians
“He’s got some really good ideas and he makes some very good points; he’s quite switched on,” Djite said of the man who owned the club where he played briefly from 2010.
“He was really busy but he always had time for us and he was so generous.”
Djite said Palmer signed the players’ paychecks by hand, but his first inkling of his largesse came when he offered to send the best and fairest-winning player of the local rugby league club – of which he was a patron – to London as an end-of-season reward.
He recalls Palmer telling the player at the club’s awards function: ‘I got you accommodation at … whatever hotel it was… for five nights and then I thought I’ll give him a couple grand spending money. Then I thought when you turn that into pounds, mate you can’t even get a cab. So I’m giving you ten thousand dollars spending money.’
“And I was like ‘woah’ and the whole crowd was like ‘oh my god’,” Djite said, recalling the magnate went on to offer the other players – and their partners – a five-night holiday in “Bali or Thailand or somewhere”, on his private jet.
“And I was just like ‘Jesus, how generous is this dude?’ Like honestly, he would have just spend a hundred thousand there, just bang.”
It’s clear some of the controversial businessman’s ethos has rubbed off on Djité.
“I definitely see the business argument more than the worker’s argument, which is interesting because, as part of the player union I can see the worker’s argument… but I can also see the clubs’ and federation’s reasoning as to why they operate the way they do,” he says.
“I think the left wing goes a bit too hard on the businesses.
“Think of award rates. Place isn’t opening on Sundays because award rates are killing them.
“It’s like, what would you prefer? To work for a bit less award rates and be open and the business makes some money and you make some money and everyone’s making some money, and the people can actually go to these places and spend some money, and that’s an economic benefit.
“But there has to be a middle ground. The Swedish do it well. The Denmark’s do it well. These Scandinavian countries do it really well.
“If you go to those countries not many people are complaining about the government or how their tax system is or anything like that.
“We try to do it well but you speak to business and everyone complains. Then you speak to the workers and they complain.
“My dad came from a real small village in Africa to go to a collage in America to being a professor, et cetera, et cetera – so I can understand people who came from nothing to achieve really big things.
“I can [also] understand people who were born with privilege and have been privileged all their lives.
“At school everyone was playing this game [football] after school.
“I had no mates. I’m like, I’m just going to join and play this game. Really enjoyed it. Naturally wasn’t too bad. And you know it’s like here in Australia. If you’re good at sport at school, it’s pretty easy to make some mates. So you know, that’s how the football journey started.
“I was about eight [and] I think I said to my dad, ‘yeah, I’m going to be a professional soccer player’ and he was like ‘yes son – whatever you reckon,’ type thing.”
By the time Djité got into university, he had decided to pursue football full-time, and hints of an entrepreneurial sensibility were peaking through.
“I was like ‘I’m doing alright at uni, I’m doing alright at soccer but it’s not good enough’.
“I need to be really good at uni or really good at soccer.
“And my dad was always like ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ and I was always like ‘without great risks there’s no great reward’.”
Only months after helping Adelaide United win the A-league Grand Final, Djité is already “anxious” about his life after football.
He is a regular speaker at corporate events, and prides himself on his eloquence and his networking skills, boasting: “I’ve got a lot of friends that are politicians.”
“I go to some fundraisers, mingle with some pretty ‘powerful’, inverted commas if you like, people.
“When I finish my degree and my career’s over and no-one wants to know me, they might knock on my door and say – ‘hey, you did a couple of talks for us; we found you pretty impressive so would you like to be part of the Nike family?’ So I look more long term.”
“My long term goal is to be a high level sports administrator in this country, or another, or to somehow stay in the game when I’m finished, in an admin level.”
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