The huge negative impact the Coronavirus pandemic has had on our economy and lives has exacerbated our living conditions. Thanks to this virus, we can’t even attend funerals of loved ones because of the strict but necessary safety regulations.
When the news broke last Wednesday about the passing away of Free State Stars chairman, Mike Mokoena, not many would have expected it. Not many would have believed the authenticity of the news if it didn’t come through the Absa Premiership communication department. Such is the extent to which the news shattered almost everyone in the football fraternity because this is a man of integrity, one of the most influential football administrators who played a significant role in changing lives, not only of their immediate families but their communities and the whole country at large. Mostly operating behind the scenes, allowing his younger employees and family members to run the club’s affairs, ntate Mokoena was a voice of reason and a gentleman. He was a leader who never saw himself as superior to anyone, least of all his players. Never one to draw attention and even a simple phone call to request an interview would be turned down politely before redirecting you to the relevant people. He was never one to steal the limelight and that’s a rare leadership quality.
His passing leaves a huge void in our football especially at a time where our football leadership needs all the wisdom and guidance it can get. We find ourselves in a time where sponsors are pulling out, of infighting at South African Football Association, uncertainty over the resumption of the League and the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging our economy. As one of the professional league founders, ntate Mokoena would certainly have a big role to play in restoring sanity. However, God decided to give this gentle giant only until last Wednesday to take his final breath. A huge loss to his family, friends, Ea Lla Koto, the football community and the country as a whole. He has played his part and his legacy lives on. May ntate Mokoena’s soul rest in peace. We share in his family’s grief because the man has played a big role in our football. So many families have benefited from his vision to have a professional football club in Bethlehem. A number of players made their names at Stars when they couldn’t be afforded the opportunity in their own provinces and cities. They had to trek to Bethlehem to get a fighting chance at turning professional. Once again, may ntate Mokoena’s soul rest and his legacy live on.
Speaking of legacy, dear men of our society, what will people remember about you when the final whistle has blown on your time on earth? Will you even be remembered? This is a question that comes to mind whenever I hear about the brutality that comes with gender-based violence meted out against women and children by males. Yes, I said males because men behave better. They protect and create a safe environment for women and children in our communities. Men are protective. Men see the next girl child as their own and would never do anything to harm her because they always see her as their own. It is heartbreaking to read and hear about the barbaric behaviour of those who harm our women and children because there’s no justification for their actions. We have been talking about this pandemic for years now, but it just won’t disappear. Surely it is time to do more than just talking and creating different #hashtags on social media all in an effort to create awareness and fight this devilish behaviour. We have to do more than just talk and actually take action. I’m not, in any way, planting a seed for mob justice or anything like that. As a father, uncle, brother and a son, it breaks my heart that our women and children feel so vulnerable that they can’t trust us at all. This is not because they don’t like us anymore but because of the evil actions we continuously perpetrate against them. The “It wasn’t me” or “Not in my name” stance doesn’t cut it anymore. We have to take a collective approach because there’s no time for grandstanding now.
Let us all play our part in ensuring the safety of our women and children. To do so, we have to make a concerted effort to groom better men by talking about these things with them from a young age. We need to help guide the younger generation and help the experienced to unlearn this devilish behaviour. Sport, especially football, is the biggest platform and vehicle for change. If all men in the Soccer Laduma Supporters Club branches, across the country, could take a stand against gender-based violence, the numbers of these incidents would definitely decline. We have a role to play, guys. Let gender-based violence form part of our weekly meetings so that we combat this behaviour and condemn it in the strongest terms. That will go a long way in changing the way people see women and children. It is also unwise to wait until something bad happens to someone close to you before you realise the negative impact this kind of behaviour has on our women and children. Prevention is better than cure and we have to pull out all stops to ensure that these demonic actions become a thing of the past. If anyone can get a breakthrough on this battle, it is us football people. Together, we can create the much-needed safe environment for our women and children.
We see a lot of our ladies carrying psychological scars from gender-based incidents that affect them for the rest of their lives, when the perpetrators have even forgotten about their actions. It is unfair and has to stop, but we can’t just wish it away. We have to act on it and it will take a collective effort from everyone. That’s why I’m issuing a challenge to all Soccer Laduma Supporters Club members and readers to please lead the way. Enough is enough! We can’t carry on like this and we’ve been very consistent with our attitude towards gender-based violence, but talking about it is not enough. We need to act now and do more. I believe in you guys and I know we all want the best for our women and children. Let’s do this for generations to come!