I admit, I was one of those who were quick to slate Kaizer Chiefs football manager Bobby “Bobsteak” Motaung for his utterances on Robert Marawa’s show where he complained about some of the harsh conditions they had to face in their brief African Champions League campaign.
Having had time to reflect, I am actually ashamed now because I, like many football fans out there, allowed my own prejudices to cloud my think and in the process, missed or deliberately chose to ignore the important issue raised by Bobby and that is the fact that the Champions League is not run professionally.
What we are actually doing by telling Kaizer Chiefs to “shut up and take it like Orlando Pirates” is equivalent to telling a second wife, who complains of her husband’s abusive ways, to shut up and take it because the first wife experienced the same abuse from him but still went on to prosper.
That cannot be right – abuse is abuse and abuse is wrong and Chiefs are right to speak out against it. The fact that Pirates decided to keep quiet about it will never make it right.
The world over, football is known as the beautiful game but there is nothing beautiful about the experiences African soccer players (not just SA players) have to go through just to take part in the game they love.
I got a chill down my spine the other day while watching an old episode of “Up The Bucs” where Pirates were made to travel to one of their games in a helicopter that looked no better than some of the beat-down taxis you find in Alex.
I immediately thought of the Zambian team of 1993 that was wiped out in an airplane crash and realised that this is not what I had in mind when, as a kid, I dreamt of making it to the paid ranks.
There are other stories as well of Pirates being refused juice at the hotel they were camping in before one of their away games and of journalists having their cell phones taken away from them for no good reason.
I am surprised that as a country we see nothing wrong with such happenings and actually justify them as being part of our “beautiful game.” Fact is they are not and I don’t think we should wait for someone to lose their life before realising how serious it is.
African football, through its mother-body CAF, needs to look itself in the mirror and acknowledge that there are many pimples on its face that need to be “OXYcuted” as a matter of urgency.
So instead of berating Bobby and the glamorous ones from Phefeni, I believe the whole country should actually rally behind them and confront the situation head on.
The same way the #NkandlaSaga united DA, EFF, UDM, Cope supporters, the supporters of SuperSport United, Kaizer Chiefs, Sundowns, Pirates, Aces etc. should all be standing together and sending out a strong message to CAF that we are indeed better than this as a continent and do deserve better.
Football is meant to be enjoyed by not only those who watch it and the administrators who pocket millions from it but also by those who play it.
How can we expect our players to go out there and gives us great performances when they have to endure such atrocious conditions.
Fact is football is not war- it is a GAME, which is there for enjoyment and the CAF Champions League has made us forget that.
Let me end with this: I will be playing in an indoor soccer tournament with some of my friends this weekend.
I will wake up in the comfort of my bed, drive to my favourite fast food joint, grab my favourite burger with cream soda (no ice), then make my way to the game (not the army) where I will use my skills, not bully-tactics, to win the game for my team.
Why, then, should our footballers not experience the same peace and tranquility before taking part in CAF matches?
It saddens me that we have accepted and reconciled ourselves to the fact that in the CAF Champions League, it is actually the teams that use the best underhanded tactics, that bribe referees, that frustrate their opponents off the pitch that deserve to win instead of those who play better football and have players who are more skilful.