Footballers, like everyone else, have rights too! They are also human and therefore shouldn’t be treated as rubbish. They deserve respect, the same respect everyone expects from them.
Have you ever thought of the abuse, both emotional and physical, that footballers have to endure from their clubs, supporters, communities and everyone within their touching distance? The level of pressure these athletes are put under is unbearable and little wonder some of them go astray as soon as they hit the limelight. At the risk of sounding like promoting misbehaviour, if we check properly, we will find that some of the players whose careers went down the drain before they could even fulfil their potential did so, partly, due to the unnecessary pressure from either the communities or supporters. They are expected to perform miracles, extend a helping hand to everyone because they have made it. They are earning ridiculously high salaries and therefore can afford to bail everyone out. That’s the perception. When they don’t do that – due to the reality that they’re not earning as much as they’re made out to be – people turn against them and become their sworn enemies. They are treated as supermen, but when they want to express their supermen feelings, they are shunned by the very same people who had catapulted them to the superman status.
I’m not venting but trying to put a point across. I’ve been thinking of the abuse – yes, I said abuse – that footballers are constantly subjected to by almost everyone. Professional footballers are always expected to be everyone’s carpet to walk on. It is like they don’t breathe, they don’t sweat for anything they have, they don’t work hard, they are just spoilt brats with inflated egos, earning ridiculous amounts of money that they don’t even deserve. Footballers don’t have to have a voice of their own. Instead, coaches, managers and even club owners and supporters have an absolute right to do as they please to the footballers. It is very easy for a coach, manager or owner to single out a player as a reason for a loss or even lambaste him in public, but let a player so much as express their honest opinions of them and all hell will break loose. It is also very easy for these people to feed wrong and malicious information to the media and even supporters in order to turn them against a player, but a player can’t do the same without suffering the consequences of being made a victim.
It is like players are not from the same planet or do not bleed the same blood and are stupid human beings who are fortunate enough to be able to kick the ball at a professional level. It is like players don’t have a right to show emotion, they can’t stand their ground against anyone, they should always sheepishly accept everything as it comes. No one seems to even care that these same players are someone’s child, they have families, some are husbands and wives, but they are treated like second-class citizens. These are the same people who play such a significant role in the morale of the country. They are responsible for keeping their teams happy at whatever cost. One supporter will pay R40 to attend a game and feel they have a right to ridicule and abuse the player because they paid their hard-earned cash to watch them. Some club owners treat their players as if they have leprosy. It is like they are doing them a favour by signing them into their clubs. When a club deems a payer surplus to requirements, the player has nothing to do but pack their bags and leave. No revolt from the supporters for the player’s departure. But let a player express his views that they don’t enjoy their game anymore at one club and therefore looking to go elsewhere, for new challenges. Watch how the team reacts, watch how the supporters accuse the player of being a traitor and lacking loyalty. It is like the teams have a right to do as they wish, while the same can’t be said about players. A club can arrange a loan move for a player without their knowledge and they are still expected to honour their contract and go wherever they are sent. Like one former Orlando Pirates fan-favourite Joseph Makhanya once put it eloquently, footballers are treated like vegetables on the back of a bakkie. Anyone interested can have them, but they (footballers), like the vegetables, have no right to choose where they go. In other words, their fate is in someone else’s hands.
We forget about the demanding job that they have, of pleasing the passionate supporters, the tough competition for a place in the team, the criticism they have to endure whenever they make mistakes or results are not going their way. We also forget that there’s no football without the players and the very same teams that mistreat players would be nothing without those players. Do you think Daine Klate would be among the most decorated players in Absa Premiership history if he had not left SuperSport United to join Pirates, where he added back-to-back trebles to add to his three league titles with Matsatsantsa a Pitori? When Reneilwe Letsholonyane made it clear that he wanted to taste continental football, hence his decision to join SuperSport from Kaizer Chiefs, not many were happy to see him leave, but when you look back at that move, did he not realise his dream? Would he have tasted any continental football had he been ‘loyal’ to Amakhosi and stayed on? Certainly not. So, it is not always about loyalty but respect for the players enough to allow them to explore other avenues when they feel like it. They see their peers experiencing growth, winning things, while all they have to show is loyalty, sometimes, for the duration of their stay at one particular club. No one wants to go through that, and you can only realise and appreciate that when you respect players enough to be able to see things from their perspective too. That’s when you’ll realise that players are human too! Not some sack of potatoes on the back of a lorry.