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Editor's Blog

Let’s Honour Our Players

The South African professional football league is rated among the best in the world, but we sometimes fall short of living up to that standard. For instance, we fail to honour our players like our European counterparts do. We simply don’t place enough value on our footballers.

Take Siphiwe Tshabalala, for instance, who was the 2010 FIFA World Cup poster boy. You can’t think about the first ever FIFA World Cup in the African continent without Shabba’s name ringing in your head, especially that opening goal in the 1-1 draw against Mexico. Where is Shabba now? What’s happening with him and his football career? Has he retired? Shabba is a modern football legend, he should be celebrated a lot better, especially in the latter days of his career. He’s one of many such examples, sadly, in our football. His good friend and former teammate, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, recently announced his retirement from the game via social media. Yes, things have changed and we are living in a modern era where social media is the order of the day, but did Yeye really have to say his goodbye like that? We are living in a ‘new normal’, where supporters are not allowed in the stadiums due to COVID-19 regulations, but wouldn’t it have been more fitting for Yeye to say his goodbye in his last game with TS Galaxy, in front of the supporters? Why is it that our teams don’t prioritize giving the footballers a proper chance to say their goodbyes to the supporters?

There is a long list of players who simply went under the radar and disappeared from the scene, despite playing an integral part for their former teams. Before you know it, you’re told the player has retired without the supporters even getting a chance to thank him properly. As a league that is rated so highly, surely we can take a leaf out of other leagues in the world where these things are done better and more professionally. When a player’s contract is not going to be renewed, a joint statement between all parties involved will be released so that everyone is on the same page. When that player makes his final appearance in that team’s colours, the supporters will form part of the journey and make their way to the stadium to say, ‘Thank you and goodbye.’ Their departure or even retirement is never kept a secret because the supporters deserve to know and have a role to play in the player’s last game. How many of our players have had that opportunity in the past 10-15 seasons? Is there any name that comes to mind? Yeye shouldn’t have retired the way he did. He’s one of those players who deserve to be celebrated and waved goodbye properly – unfortunately, that didn’t happen. There were also a number of players who were promised testimonial games, but that never materialized. This just goes to show how little value is attached by the clubs to the players saying their goodbye to the supporters. For too long now, we have witnessed little respect and honour given to our footballers and this needs to change. We just can’t carry on like this because our footballers deserve much better. Surely it won’t hurt anyone to put some respect on these players and show the appreciation and acknowledgment for everything they’ve done for their clubs and supporters.   

Just imagine Lucky Lekgwathi playing his last game for Orlando Pirates at Orlando Stadium. Thousands of football lovers, not just Pirates supporters, would flock the stadium to say farewell to arguably the best Pirates captain and that would be a special day for everyone involved but, once again, we don’t seem to attach any value to these kinds of things and one wonders why? Despite everything “Phinda Mzala”, as he is affectionately known, has done for the Buccaneers, there was no proper goodbye to the millions of supporters who still adore him to this day. Maybe we need to pay a little bit of attention to these kinds of things and show love and respect to those who served our teams with great respect and distinction. Remember Thabo Mooki? Imagine, even a testimonial game to celebrate and relive the special moments he shared with Kaizer Chiefs supporters over the years. We seem to only care about these guys when they are still actively involved and then turn our backs on them when they leave. This can’t go on anymore because this doesn’t help the game in any way. We need to honour, respect and appreciate our players more so that those who come after them can also have something to look forward to. We need to take care of our players and give them a platform to give back to their supporters when their careers come to an end. Surely that’s not too much to ask. This is a really sad thing to happen to the players and supporters. In other leagues, you know when a player’s contract is not going to be renewed long before it expires and you know when he’s playing his last game for his team. Surely we can also do the same with our players because there’s really nothing stopping us from doing it. We just need to pay more attention to the simple things that make a big impact and difference. 

We can’t continue having our players disappearing from the Beautiful Game like that, without the supporters giving them a proper goodbye. One of the most decorated players in PSL history, Daine Klate, never had a moment with the supporters before hanging up his boots. This is one of the most exemplary professional footballers, but we were robbed of an opportunity to bid him farewell. If this has happened to him, can you imagine what players who have achieved very little in comparison must be thinking right now? Surely we can do better than that! Shabba, just like Hlompho Kekana, can’t just disappear without saying his goodbye to the supporters because they’ve been great servants of the game and the least we can do is afford them an opportunity to thank their supporters properly on the field of play. We really need to do better. 

On a separate note, congratulations to coach Hugo Broos, his players and the entire Bafana Bafana technical for the back-to-back wins against Ethiopia in the Qatar World Cup qualifiers. There’s still a long way ahead, but things are looking up for our team. 

On a rather sad note, condolences to Lucky Maselesele’s family and friends on his untimely passing last week. 

 

Cheers,

VeeJay 

 

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