In this week's DoRego's blog, we feature Orlando Pirates’ Senzo Meyiwa.
We knew that going into the rest of Africa there were going to be a lot of challenges and that everything would be against us. The way the referee handled the game was shocking. You would go out to fetch the ball and he’d give you a yellow card for ‘time-wasting’. The most painful thing is that people couldn’t see what was happening. Something like this needs to be reported to Caf because this is not the way to officiate games. Le nto kumele ibhekwe bafethu! (This thing needs to be looked at!) I think a lot of teams out there are winning through dubious means.
If God hadn’t given us the power to come out of that situation, people would think that we didn’t want to fight, but if they had seen what we went through, they’d have seen that we fought. They stopped the game from being televised because they knew what they wanted to do. They have the power and the money. When you have money, you can do anything. When we were playing, we didn’t know that the game wasn’t being televised and only got to hear about it after the game. We were told about some of the South African journalists who had their SIM cards confiscated and even our guy from the ‘Up The Bucs’ TV show couldn’t take clips of the game. He was busy hiding some of his stuff! Lucky Lekgwathi got a red card that was never a red card. The second penalty... it was just a soft touch and outside the box. When I tried to explain to the referee, he wanted to give me a yellow card. So it was useless to fight with the referee because our captain got a red card, so who are we to fight against the referee? At the rate he was going, he wouldn’t be scared to give all of us red cards. But in the end we managed to contain them.
I must admit that after Sunday’s game I realised that I’m a man. Besides the penalties, there were lots of shots coming my way and I had to make some brave saves. They were going all out! Obviously people will only look at the penalty saves I made, but overall I had one of my best games ever. I had to do my best for the team, for the country and for myself. My experience in the junior and senior national teams came in handy.
The treatment (in DRC) wasn’t as good as what we’re used to back in Mzansi. There was no escort for the bus and we had to wait for the escort from the hotel to the stadium. We had to leave at 13h00 (on Sunday) but they kept delaying so that we wouldn’t have enough time to prepare. They were killing us mentally and playing mind games so that we could lose concentration during the warm-up. In the warm-up some of the supporters behind me were swearing at me, telling me they were going to score three goals. When we got onto the field, they intimidated us. But most of our players like me, Daine Klate, Onyekachi Okonkwo, Collins Mbesuma, Lucky Lekgwathi...almost the whole team...have experienced these challenges. I’ve represented my country at U17, U20, U23, and now I’m part of Bafana Bafana. We were aware of these things and the worst part is that on the field we had to play against the referee, against the supporters and against TP Mazembe. Can you see how massive the pressure was? We thrive on pressure. We are used to playing in games like this, like the Soweto derby, so it wasn’t something new to us.
We only saw a lot of supporters when we went to training on Saturday afternoon. They’ve got massive support over there. Even our bus driver was playing TP Mazembe songs! Mazembe this, Mazembe that! Already they were trying to kill us mentally while we were still in the bus. During the game when I saved the first penalty, the supporters threw tins behind my goalposts. When I put water bottles in the net, they’d send the ball boys to take them. They knew I would need water while the game was on because it was very hot there. I think I put six water bottles in the first half and six in the second half. They were trying to disturb me.
I think something must be done (on the standard or refereeing). There must be Caf or Fifa officials attending the games and security should be tight. There are a lot of things that need to improve. Football has to be fair. I even asked one of the TP Mazembe players...there was a short guy playing on the right wing...immediately after Lekgwathi got a red card, I asked him, “Mfethu, do you think what you guys are doing is fair? As a player, how do you feel? Do you feel you’ve achieved when you’ve won something with the help of the referee?” He was professional enough to say, “Sometimes it’s the team. They buy referees!” As a referee you have to be fair and let the game play. Even as a player, you feel proud if you win knowing you went out there to compete, not just because you knew you were going to win. You must want to make history because of the commitment you put in throughout the tournament.
Going forward, I think as players we can improve by playing in such tournaments because we always look at European teams playing in the Uefa Champions League and we wa nt to play on that stage. We want to conquer Africa and then go play in the Club Championships where we will get the opportunity to meet our role models like Iker Casillas and also get offers from overseas teams. Okay, if you play for Bafana Bafana, you can have a chance to go and play in Europe, but if that doesn’t happen, this is the chance for you to market yourself. We’ve done well by eliminating TP Mazembe because it has not been done in a long time. Teams beat them away and they turn the tables at home and they haven’t lost a game there in a long time, especially in the Champions League. That’s us making history and I’m sure even their chairman can’t believe it! Now we’re just waiting for the group stages.