Protect Your Reputation, Bra J!
Jomo Cosmos coach and owner, the legendary Dr Ephraim Matsilela Sono, made the news this past week, this time not because of his eye for talent but for not paying salaries to his players at the National First Division side.
This is not just an ordinary figure in South African football – we are talking about someone who has dedicated his life to the Beautiful Game. The Black Prince of South African Soccer. Someone who was so committed and dedicated to his game that even the clash of dates between his wedding to his beautiful bride (Gail) and his club (Orlando Pirates)’ important fixture, couldn’t stop him from pleasing both his wife and his club. He skilfully managed to be in two places at the same time, so to speak, and would have made even Judy Boucher eat her “Can’t Be With You Tonight” lyrics. You see, Jomo, just like Boucher’s lyrics say, had to satisfy two masters that he loved equally – his beautiful wife and his club.
Unlike Boucher, Jomo made a way to be ‘in two places at the same time’ and didn’t have to leave one for the other. History records have it that on 10 February 1979, at the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, in Orlando, Soweto, the legendary Sono surprised everyone at his wedding reception, including his own bride, when he made an announcement that he was needed at the Rand Stadium on arguably the beautiful couple’s best day, where Pirates were trailing Highlands Park 2-0. Long story short, the final score read: Highlands Park 2 – 4 Orlando Pirates, thanks to Jomo’s three assists and one goal! He then drove back to join his bride and continue with his wedding. Can you believe it!
Now this is just a summary of how committed and dedicated this man has been to the Beautiful Game as many, myself included, would never even consider making time for a soccer match on such a special day. It is a ‘no-go-zone’, but not to Jomo and I can safely say he will never be challenged by anyone to the record of playing a soccer match on his wedding day. Only he could come up with such a crazy plan, let alone execute it, all because of a football match.
His dedication to the sport has seen a number of top quality players emerge from his club and going on to do big things in the game. He unearthed a long list of big-name players and his contribution to South African football can’t be disputed. In fact, I can’t think of many people who come close to what this man has done for our football. He remains a true legend and is to South African football what Pele is to Brazil and the world. However, Jomo will be the first to admit that he has brought his own name and reputation a lot of shame in recent years. The alleged treatment meted out to his players is definitely a final straw and the fact that the former skilful player couldn’t dribble his way out of a tight spot on a radio interview with Robert Marawa on Marawa Sport Worldwide last week didn’t help his cause at all. Until Jomo came on air, everything said by his player, Zambian international, Clifford Mulenga seemed far-fetched to those who were not privy to what the players had claimed to be subjected to. When Jomo finally came on, he didn’t answer the questions and simply bullied his way through the few minutes he was on until he predicted that his phone signal would “cut” soon, which happened. He did, however, admit to owing the players and promised to sort things out.
Having spoken to Mulenga the previous week, I knew that it was only a matter of time before their frustrations became public knowledge. I even mentioned this unfortunate incident on this platform last week. While I understand Jomo’s struggles and financial implications that come with dropping down to the National First Division and that he can’t “take money from other businesses” to keep the struggling team afloat, he better spare a thought for his players whose sole income is from the game itself. Players who have no other form of income other than the salaries they expect from him. If the shoe was on the other foot, surely Bra J would not tolerate it and it smacks of hypocrisy that he would expect his players to go for months without a salary. If that doesn’t smack of slave trade, then I don’t know what does. What pains me the most is the fact that all of this is happening under the nose of one of the frontrunners in fighting for players’ rights, if history is to be believed.
The game has done so much for Bra J and he has given to football as much as he got, but it is only fair that he allows his own players to prosper as well. Don’t throw your hard work and reputation down the drain, Bra J. Protect it with everything you have because you are a legend and one of the most respected football administrators and legends.