Hello to all you Soccer Laduma readers. This week we turn 24! Thank you to Soccer Laduma editor, Vuyani Joni, for offering me the opportunity to share my feelings with you on the birthday of this publication. This will be my second-last editorial before I retire from Soccer Laduma, which makes it even more special for me. My next and final editorial will appear in the issue of the 24th of March, two months from now.
As always, there is a lot to be grateful for, especially in times like these. I cannot even begin to talk about football without firstly offering our deepest sympathies to anyone who has lost a loved one during these troubled times. Words don’t do justice to what it must feel like and neither can words fully soften the pain. All our good thoughts and energies are with those who have suffered tragedy and losses. Our huge gratitude and admiration also go out to all the doctors, nurses and frontline workers who have dedicated their time and efforts in helping others during this terrible pandemic. Their efforts must never be forgotten. To those who have lost jobs, businesses and income, please do not lose hope. As hard as it is, please remain positive because this will pass and there are opportunities out there no matter how bleak things may seem right now. Please don’t lose hope.
I really hope and pray that the politicians and we, South African citizens, learn from the last 11 months. Genuine changes need to be made to alleviate poverty, to create jobs and to ensure proper housing for all. The public hospitals and medical system clearly need vast improvement. We also deserve world-class education in all schools, with thriving sport and extramural activities for all and to have a police force and government that we can trust and rely on. As citizens, we need to unite in a spirit of respect for one another regardless of who we are, where we are from and what we do. We need to regain our pride and respect and help eradicate the negative behaviours from within our society. We need to become healthier in body, mind and spirit. We need to learn to love again. We can’t rely on only the government for that. Yes, they must lead, but we as family members must take up our responsibilities in reinstating strong and healthy family values, which are the foundation of any society.
That leads to what Soccer Laduma has been for me. When I started the paper 24 years ago, I didn’t know where it would take me or where it would end up. But what I did know was that I loved soccer with all my heart and that I would put all my heart and total effort, dedication and commitment into the publication. I also knew that in order for it to work, dedicating myself to the publication, and later our digital platforms, meant that that we had to work totally for you, the readers, and not for myself. My, or should I say our, only aim ever at Soccer Laduma has been to make you, the reader, consistently happy and to keep growing and improving our work so as to maintain your support and love. This is and has always been the aim and purpose of Soccer Laduma and what we look for in anyone who works for Soccer Laduma.
With that in mind, I am fully convinced that I am leaving Soccer Laduma in very good hands and that you will continually be served in the manner in which you deserve and have come to expect. Print editor Vuyani Joni, superbly assisted by Lunga Adam and the print journalists, including the design team led by Brent Smith, have all individually been at Soccer Laduma in excess of 17 years and know exactly how to take the paper forward. The same applies on the digital side of Soccer Laduma, where Eddie Martinuzzi, with 10 years of experience with Soccer Laduma, continues with his team to break Siyagobhoza stories with breathtaking accuracy and consistency. The entire company is now under the watchful eye of Clint Roper, who himself is a former Soccer Laduma editor and has been at the company for over 21 years. Now you understand why I am so confident of the future. I have worked closely with these dedicated people and I know that they have your very best interests at heart. If you ever have any problems, suggestions or recommendations or even just want a chat, I can assure you that they are available to you 24/7 just as I was and still are until the end of March.
If you ask me about what my personal biggest disappointment in South African football has been since I started Soccer Laduma 24 years ago, it has to be the fall from grace of our national team Bafana Bafana, followed by the dearth of our players playing in the top leagues overseas compared to the ’90s. There is no excuse as to the poor showing of our national team. We have everything going for us: a big population, a large pool of players, quality facilities, lots of available funds, top-class media and communication, a well-run professional league, highly-paid players … I could go on. There are solutions that will take us back to the top in Africa and make us, once again, proud of the name Bafana Bafana. The biggest problem is that our national team is not run as a separate entity to SAFA. The solution, in my opinion, is a simple one. A carefully selected task team with the right leader, that falls under SAFA, but working independently with clearly defined goals within a clear plan, needs to be put together. That team should be tasked with finding the money and for ensuring that the plan works and has sustainability. The country deserves and needs a national team that is treated like a precious commodity and when that happens, not with lip service but with action, you will see the results and way sooner than we think. Bafana won’t come right just by throwing cash at some well-known overseas international coach. It takes way more than that. The first step in getting that right is finding the right person to drive the initiative, let him or her select who he needs in support and allow them to deliver what’s required and within budget and within the required timeframes. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that in football there are no guarantees by claiming that football is different. Believe me, the football business is just like anything else – what you put in is what you get out.
Peter du Toit