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Shape Up Or Ship Out!

There is a growing trend of misbehaviour and making the headlines for all the wrong reasons, coming from the Orlando Pirates camp. There could be a number of reasons for that, but this is one of the biggest and oldest teams not just in South Africa but the continent as well. 

Pirates is one of the flagship teams of South African football and to be part of this institution, just like Kaizer Chiefs, should never be taken for granted by anyone. It is a privilege rather than a right. These are two of the teams that played a pivotal role in achieving the democratic country that we see today. This is one of the teams that have produced a number of quality players that have gone on to represent the country at national team level and even went abroad to fly the South African flag high, opening the world’s eyes to the talent that this country possesses. This is a team that first brought the star above the badge, when they won the CAF Champions League in 1995 – followed with the CAF Super Cup in 1996 – which laid the foundation for the only Afcon title South Africa have, from the 1996 edition. 

This is one of the teams that have been on the forefront of making and breaking records in Mzansi’s football and there is no telling of this country’s football history without mentioning the Skull and Crossbones! So many great players have represented this team with pride, but not a single one of them thought they were bigger than the team. In fact, the few who did were quickly proved wrong. This is a team with one of the heaviest jerseys due to expectations and what it means to play for Pirates. So many players were signed, after stellar performances from their previous clubs, only to fail to live up to expectations and were quietly offloaded out of the Sea Robbers’ ship. Such is the weight of that jersey and the responsibility that comes with being associated with Pirates. This is a team whose name, until in recent years, used to send shivers down the spine of the opposition, but what has become of this giant of African football is akin to a fish rotting away! They may have won the MTN8 last season, but that should never blind anyone, even the die-hard supporters, because if you take that trophy away, it is crystal clear to see that this team is far from where it should be. Whether you like it or not, without Pirates and Chiefs doing well, South African football is not the same. These two are practically the face of Mzansi football and they have a duty to live up to expectations and a reputation to uphold. Players caught offside off the field is the last thing anyone wants to hear about from these two camps.

We are not going to shy away from the fact that there are some great individuals who epitomise what playing for these teams is, just as we are not going to shy away from the individuals who have dragged the teams’ names through the mud. Whether it is players having caught interest of other clubs, ‘greener pastures’, and wanting out or players just not caring anymore and therefore lacking discipline, the bottom line is that the “Iron Duke” (Dr Irvin Khoza) and his management have to do something. It is the custodians of the club, the supporters, who are suffering while the players continue to live and enjoy their lives. These supporters invest a lot of financial and emotional support on the club and get little to nothing in return – surely they deserve to be respected and taken into consideration all the time. That’s not too much to ask, surely! Playing for big teams isn’t for everyone because by signing that contract, you’re accepting responsibility and swearing ‘under oath’ to commit yourself to the cause and be held accountable. That kind of commitment isn’t for everyone. You can get away with breaking it from time to time at so-called smaller clubs, but not when millions of supporters rely on you to deliver consistently on the field of play. There are a number of players who don’t seem to care, understand or even worry what the supporters want from the Bucs camp. They don’t even seem to care about the club’s badge, for that matter! They show no respect at all to the club and even their fellow teammates and everyone involved with the club. To function as a team, everyone has to bring their best, pulling in the same direction, and be responsible. Responsibility is when you know that your actions, on and off the field, will impact your teammates and therefore you have to remain mindful of that and ensure you bring positive impact. That’s responsibility. 

How many cases of ill-discipline have you heard from the Bucs camp in the last six months? From ‘freak’ accident at home, gender-based violence, nightclub incident, you name it, and these aren’t youngsters, which is the worst part about it, but senior players who are expected to lead the change room. Pirates legends must be bitterly disappointed and ashamed to see a club they devoted their all to being reduced to just another football club in the professional ranks of South African football. They must be green with envy when they see what is happening at Chloorkop, with Mamelodi Sundowns players making the back pages of newspapers while their successors are occupying front covers! Except for the Dumisani Zuma incident, you hardly hear anything negative about Chiefs and Sundowns players in recent times and that implies players understand their responsibilities, even if they are not perfect as no one is. They respect their craft, they respect their club, the badge, the name on the back of the jersey, the supporters and everyone associated with the club, but, more importantly, they respect themselves! Can we say the same about some of the players in the Bucs camp? Certainly not! Something needs to be done and it is either these rotten potatoes shape up or ship out! 

Pirates should not allow this to happen any further than it has already and strong action should be taken against the offenders. They need to nip this budding misbehaviour in the bud. Professional football is just that, professional, and therefore everything associated with it has to be professional and done professionally. The players’ conduct, on and off the field, has a bearing on the team for as long as they are contracted because they represent their club wherever they go. By the same token, the teams should also play their part in ensuring that everything is done in order. One thing is for sure, Pirates can’t carry on like this! Before looking at the coaches and the results, clubs need to pull out all the stops to ensure that coaches have the right tools for the job. They have to create a conducive environment for the coaches to do their job. You can’t expect coaches to chase after players, discipline them and then coach all at the same time. 

Congratulations to Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies for reaching the inaugural CAF Women’s Champions League final after beating Equatorial Guinea’s Malabo Kings FC 5-4 on penalties on Monday night. Banyana Ba Style will face off against Ghana’s Hassacas Ladies in Cairo on Friday night. Good luck to coach Jerry Tshabalala and the whole Sundowns family! Go out there and make us all proud. 






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