Since the first suspected case of the novel Coronavirus, which was of a 55-year-old from Hubei province in China on 17 November 2019, the disease has gone on to land a sucker punch to the economic stability of various countries around the globe, bringing the high and mighty as well as Joe Citizens on their knees, in equal measure. However, it seems some have taken the outbreak of the virus as an opportunity to straddle the edge and engage on the downright naughty.
Here in South Africa, as is by now public knowledge, a 21-day nationwide lockdown, as implemented by President Cyril Ramaphosa, has been in full swing, commencing on the morning of 27 March and was set to end on the night of 16 April, but has now been extended by a further two weeks. Citizens have been implored to stay home during this period, while continuing to take the necessary precautions in order to safeguard their health and give themselves a better chance of not contracting the virus. But human beings will always be human beings, and I have, with a tinge of disbelief, observed people going about their everyday business without a care in the world. Chance-takers, too, have been having a field day, and immediately coming to mind is the case of a man who was among the 17 arrested in Johannesburg on the weekend of 3-4 April. This was after the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) held roadside operations to check the compliance of motorists with the regulations, as stipulated by the national state of disaster. In the aftermath, Mayor Geoffrey Makhubo revealed that during these operations they had heard some interesting excuses. “A man just ‘killed’ his granny. He said his granny died and he was going to the hospital where the granny died. When we asked him for the number, he said: ‘I’m sorry, I am going to Randburg to see my girlfriend’,” said the mayor.
On the football front, they don’t come naughtier than the curious case of Bongani Zungu and his utterances following his snub for Bafana Bafana’s Africa Cup of Nations back-to-back qualifiers against Sao Tome and Principe, due to be played in late March but which had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. I put this under the ‘naughty’ category, and also could not help coming to the conclusion that this did not become as much of a talking point as it otherwise would have been because of the abnormality of the current state of affairs. Perhaps Zungu should thank his ‘underground gang’ (ancestors) for this, as maybe the backlash that may have followed would have been too much for him to bear, or, on the flipside, not so, but rather a failed opportunity to hear our beloved son of the soil out. After all, as we say in IsiXhosa: “Usana olungakhaliyo lufel’ embelekweni (A child that does not cry dies in the carrying blanket).”
In case you missed the former Mamelodi Sundowns star’s outburst, here’s what he said, verbatim, in a video that he released on his Instagram page following the squad announcement: “Guys, you know, my manager, my family, they asked me not to be open about the situation with Bafana Bafana on social media and stuff, you know. But what I can say is like ah ngikwatile yho. Ngizokhulum’ isiZulu ngob’ iagent yam angez’ ingi understande. Ngob’ uzongikhuza manje. Uzongisendel’ imessage manje athi hayi uthini? Like, le issue le ingikwatisile. Angikho right. Niyayazi le video yalo baba lo uthi: ‘angikho right’? Angikho right nami. Angikho right. Like, I’ve always, like… yazi ngiye ku Afcon nginedolo, ngilimel’ idolo, because ngithand’ inational team. Ngiphethwe yidolo nama pain. But I went, ngaya bafethu. Bathini ngesiZulu? Nganikeza konke okusentliziyweni yami, uyabo? And I gave my all for Bafana Bafana, uyabo. Ah, namhlanje abangibizi, uyabo. And abangibizi and ngiyavutha. Ngiyavutha, as always. Abangibizanga, uyabona. Daai ding le yangishay’ entliziyweni, maar, maar it’s ok, it’s ok, uyabona, it’s ok.”
Let me rather not translate the above word for word, suffice to say the gist of it is that the Amiens FC midfielder is lamenting his snub, first making it clear that he wouldn’t be communicating his message in the Queen’s language, lest his business manager catch a whiff of it and reads him the riot act. “Ben 10”, as he is affectionately called, says he went to the Afcon last year suffering from knee pain, if only out of patriotism. “And today they don’t call me,” he bemoans. Further to that, the 27-year-old reveals the unbearable pain this has brought on him, not least because, according to him, he has been doing well in France, as always (his words).
I don’t know about you, but I have a huge problem with this kind of attitude. I am miffed at the realization that this is the stance of a professional player, upon whom a lot of impressionable, aspirant young kids look as they navigate their own paths to becoming professional footballers. Since when is being called up to represent your country a birthright? Why, on the mere basis that one is performing well, should it be a foregone conclusion that, therefore, one will be called up? Especially as coach Molefi Ntseki has been at great pains to explain the criteria used to select his team, including the player profiling that goes into it. What’s with this sucking of the thumb in childish disappointment, so that the rest of South Africa feels a little pity for you, the superstar who is always available when the country needs him? Who does Bongani Zungu think he is, attacking the poor coach in public like that, and subconsciously or otherwise, casting doubts on the selection of other players whom he clearly feels he is more deserving of a place in Bafana than?
Lest you forget, Bongani, and since you brought it up, let me hasten to remind you that sacrifice is the name of the game when it comes to donning national colours. Or even club colours for that matter. Siphiwe Tshabalala’s mother was gravely ill in hospital on the eve of Kaizer Chiefs’ Telkom Knockout final against Orlando Pirates in December 2010. Shabba drove from camp a night before the game to see her and wish her well, and promised that he would score a goal and dedicate it to her, and that they would win and he’d bring her his winner’s medal after the game. It’s now history that the dreadlocked left-footed wonder went on to put on a memorable performance to help Chiefs to an emphatic victory over their archnemesis. Sadly, his mother died the following day. That’s sacrifice. How old were you in 1997, when a motley gang of Bafana Bafana players had rifles shoved in their faces by soldiers out in Pointe-Noire in present-day DR Congo, back then Zaire, and when the match did start after Dr Irvin Khoza pushed the rifles right back into the soldiers’ faces, Mark Fish was left bleeding after being headbutted by one of the home side’s players? Right there is sacrifice. It’s nothing out of the norm. Yours was not an isolated case.
In defence of his decision, coach Ntseki told the media: “I have shared with you the reasons we didn’t select him for the camp. Remember, there are a lot of factors we take into consideration when we select the team. He is not the only player we didn’t select, who probably felt the same way. But they have handled themselves in a professional manner. He might not be aware, but he is putting himself under pressure the next time he is in the team.”
Catch y’all on the rebound,