On 10 October 2012, South Africa (and neighbouring countries) woke up to Andile Jali’s interview in Soccer-Laduma in which he had some harsh words about not being selected for Bafana Bafana.
For those who did not read the interview, the straight-talking and sometimes temperamental Jali, in answer to the question about being dropped from the national team and his availability for the national cause if needed in future, said, “Hayi, ungangeni apho (No, don’t go there) because I don’t care about that. I don’t care about the national team, I care about my team where I get paid every month. I work for my team and I don’t work for the national team. Mabeng’funa, bazong’fumana. Ngihleli ngi (If they want me, they’ll get me. I’m always available). Mabengang’funi, abang’funi. Mina anginandaba. (If they don’t want me, they don’t want me. Me, I don’t care.)
Now, Jali is always a big talking point in South African football – whether it is about his form for Orlando Pirates, his battles with injuries, his run-ins with referees or his contractual situation. Sometimes I get the feeling I can write about the colour of the socks he’s wearing and I’ll get a whole lot of tongues wagging! Truth be told, characters like Jali are rare in our game these days. It is interesting to note that, even a year after his famous outburst in Soccer-Laduma, Jali still makes the nation talk. Mind you, he is only 23 and is already in his fifth season in topflight football.
An example that immediately comes to mind is the incident in the recent Caf Champions League game against Esperance, where he let rip at the referee after he had been cautioned and when his teammate Thandani Ntshumayelo told him to calm down, he appeared to want to eat him alive. The Matatiele-born midfield maestro also treated us to quite a spectacle in the MTN8 second leg semifinal against Kaizer Chiefs at Orlando Stadium, where he was captured on camera displaying unbelievable passion for his side, while sharing some moments with his son.
For many, it was the highlight of the game.
My personal feeling about Jali is that he is sometimes considered to be arrogant when actually he is just confident in his abilities. He is a born winner, an athlete who won’t accept coming second. In fact, he has said on several occasions that those who are close to him know his true personality and how he handles himself around others. I’m not saying young up-and-coming footballers should copy Jali but that they should excel and be themselves.
The emergence of a player like Jali in modern day football reminds me of the likes of Jerry Sikhosana, Jokhonia Cibi, Gerald Raphahlela, Bernard Lushozi, Linda Buthelezi and many other strong characters who made watching the local game so interesting.
So, before you criticise Jali’s attitude or label him as “a stubborn spoilt brat”, remember that he is only human and a massively competitive athlete in whose vocabulary the word LOSS does not exist.
Catch you on the rebound!
By: Lunga Adam
Follow Lunga on Twitter: @Lunga110