“Me, I was born in South Africa. Whenever I play, I play the football that I grew up playing, I play South African football. I know there are new ideas about ‘modern football’ but that doesn’t mean you must move away from your natural style. Brazil plays modern football. In the history of modern football they are the most successful team in the world. I don’t see the Brazilian players moving away from their natural style of flair and trickery. Why must I change? Why must I boot the ball up the field if someone is coming to close me down? No, I rather give him a shibobo. I rather do it the South African way.” - Scara Ngobese
The late Scara Ngobese was a true entertainer. A genius with the ball at his feet. While many credit Collins Mbesuma with Chiefs’ league title in 2004/05, it was the wing wizardry of Scara Ngobese in many of the big games that ensured that the Amakhosi ‘styled’ their way to a memorable league title. After that season, new coaches came and went and many found no use for Scara. To a large extent his trickery was seen as unnecessary, over elaborate and of no value, and so he was excommunicated to the bench and even to the stands.
“Remember when we won the Afcon in 1996? Well, in that team, we had many entertainers, the likes of Doctor (Khumalo), Shoes (Moshoeu), and Helman Mkhalele. These guys, if you go by some of today’s coaches’ opinions would be ‘luxury’ players. Yet, since introducing this ‘modern football’ or whatever they want to call it, and since we’ve been benching entertainers or luxury players, what have we actually won as a country? What have our clubs won on the continent?”
Another Scara Ngobese quote? No, not Scara, but a player I believe is cut from the same cloth. A player who in my opinion has the same Mzansi magic running through his veins, the same player who was tossed on the scrap heap for a season and labelled ‘damaged goods’. It’s Mark Mayambela questioning those coaches who don’t know how to make the best use of his talents.
Mark also told me that it’s funny how the very same coaches that come to the training ground and gush about Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar, who reminisce about Zidane, Maradona, Ronaldinho and Pele, are the same coaches who when they see something a little different on a training pitch, when they see something that isn’t in the training manual performed in a game, are the ones to come down hardest on the ‘entertainers’ in South African football. They are the ones who are most opposed to the same magic that makes Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar idols of world soccer.
“I think they get the satisfaction that they want when watching me perform. You know, most fans like to tell me I remind them of the older generation of players. They believe that I still have the magic that people call the South African style of play.”
Mark Mayambela again? No, these words come from our former wonder kid Jabu ‘Pule’ Mahlangu. Jabu was another genius, tainted yes, but certainly one of South Africa’s most gifted footballers ever. Here was a player who understood that football for a paying fan is about more than just winning. It’s about entertaining. Notice how he uses the word ‘perform’ instead of ‘play’ - and that is something many of our coaches forget. It’s something many of our club bosses forget when they look for reasons why stadiums are empty. “I don’t like to think it (diski) will ever disappear. We’ve still got the players who can shuffle on the field. It’s up to those individual players who are gifted with those skills to exhibit them on the field. Idiski makes our football exciting. It’s up to the players to keep idiski style alive so that we can attract those supporters back to our turnstiles.” - Steve Lekoelea
What so many coaches don’t acknowledge, what so many club bosses, who maybe aren’t ‘soccer people’, don’t get, is that as curators of this beautiful game, there is an unwritten rule that you must use this beautiful game to make people smile. To make the man in the street forget about his worries for 90 minutes each week, and take him to a better place.
“Our supporters need to go home smiling, even if the team lost. They need to be able to say, ‘Ja, okay, we lost but did you see what Oupa did there, did you see what Jali did to that guy? Yho, the guys were trying to give us our money’s worth.’ That’s what excites them, that’s what makes them come to the next game. But now if you lose and you have given them no memories, no smiles, then they will think twice about coming next time. Remember most of our fans at stadiums are the guys who have used their last money to buy tickets and travel to games. They must feel they are getting their money’s worth whether their teams win or lose.” - Mark Mayambela
I can’t say it any better than Mark has. So let’s sign off there and hope someone is listening.