Going Nowhere Slowly!
Television series viewers, please don’t get too excited because of this headline, as this column is definitely not about what you’re thinking. I’m not, in any way, going to analyse the much-loved South African travel-oriented TV series. After all, this is a football-related column.
While this may sound as a personal attack on a young, talented but sometimes wayward player, it could be exactly what he needs to hear. A message that comes from a good place, from a heart that cares about him and his career more than he seems to do. Not many have been privileged and blessed enough to be in a position of turning professional at the age of 19 and have the world at your feet, with everyone raving about your talent and predicting a bright future for you.
That’s exactly what happened with one Ayabulela Konqobe (Magqwaka)! The former junior international has been club-hopping in the last couple of seasons without making any impact. If you’ve watched this 23-year-old utility player before, you will most probably understand the need to dedicate this column to him. AmaZulu terminated Konqobe’s contract after a disciplinary hearing that ruled against him, following a reported fake doctor’s certificate that the Gugulethu-born centre-back submitted as reason for missing training. Now this is where it all goes pear-shaped because it isn’t the first time that Konqobe lands himself in trouble and, sadly, looks like not the last either. The man seems to be on a serious self-destructive mode, urinating on his talent. I can only imagine the pain and embarrassment suffered by his family as their loved one continues to make the news for all the wrong reasons, when they expect to read or hear about him making strides in his chosen career instead. Now he finds himself unemployed, simply because of poor conduct.
For the uninitiated, Konqobe made his professional debut at 19, on loan at SuperSport United after graduating from Ajax Cape Town’s youth development to their senior team before his move to Matsatsantsa a Pitori, as a junior international that represented South Africa at U20 and U23 levels. The news of Konqobe’s dismissal at Usuthu follows a litany of reported off-field incidents that continue to haunt the talented player’s blossoming career. For a 23-year-old, Konqobe has been around and mostly left on a bad note. He’s been at no less than five clubs and played far less football for a player of his quality.
When Konqobe broke through the professional ranks, he was immediately touted as the next best young defender since Mbulelo “OJ” Mabizela. Precision, timing, calm demeanour, comfortable on the ball, top class distribution – these are just some of the best qualities that likened this young talent to retired OJ. However, to say Konqobe’s progress has been stagnant and failed to live up to expectations, so far, would be an understatement. In Konqobe, South Africa had another potential export to one of the biggest leagues in the world and a future Bafana Bafana captain but, if the current trend is anything to go by, this 23-year-old’s talent might just end up being an unfulfilled potential, sadly!
Someone needs to have a heart-to-heart with Konqobe before his self-destructive behaviour robs him of his God-given talent. Football is such a short career. There are millions of youngsters who would give anything to be in Konqobe’s position, but he just doesn’t seem to realise the potential he has and what a quality player he could become. That he couldn’t get a contract at Kaizer Chiefs, I believe, had very little to do with his quality. I strongly believe Chiefs weighed the ‘asset versus liability’ options before deciding against signing him. Surely, because they’re a big club, they used the few weeks he spent on trial at the club to analyse his behaviour and the aura he brings to the team, without him knowing it, and decided to save themselves the trouble of having to deal with a ‘rotten’ apple because, as they say, a rotten apple spoils the whole barrel. I was happy to learn about his trial at Chiefs and confident that he would earn a contract at the Naturena-based club. I felt more responsibility, at a bigger club, was exactly what he needed in order to get back on the straight and narrow.
To think Konqobe only made one appearance for Usuthu, under one of the best coaches at managing young talent, Cavan Johnson, maybe tells a story on its own. There is no way Johnson would deprive a deserving Konqobe a chance to realise his dream of playing regular football. There is no way Teboho Moloi and Dan Malesela, two of the young coaches who believe in youth, couldn’t play him enough at Chippa United when he deserved to play. There’s also no way that a focussed Konqobe would struggle as much as he has for game-time at almost every professional team he’s played for. It just doesn’t make sense and maybe it is time the talented player looked at himself and decided what he wanted to do with his life and career. Maybe being fired by AmaZulu is a blessing in disguise to give him time to introspect and sort his life outside of football out and come back reinvigorated, refreshed and reborn. That said, one wonders what impact his reputation will have in his future.
Konqobe’s football career is going nowhere slowly and the sooner he realises this, the better. It would be sad to see this talent becoming another statistic in the category of professional footballers who never fulfilled their potential despite a promising start. The reality is that Konqobe hasn’t used even a quarter of his true potential and therefore has done and achieved nothing yet because turning professional isn’t an ultimate but only the beginning. One thing I know is that there are people who care enough to advise and guide this young talent, that suddenly finds himself with loads of cash in his bank account, but the buck stops with him. It will take his own decision to change his ways and focus on the game that he seems to love and continue to make a living out of it before it is too late. You might think 23 is young, but time is running out and your reputation precedes you. Wake up, young man, and get your act together!