Mark Gleeson

SA Legends owed nothing

2009-01-26 11:23
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
Mark Gleeson

You have to wonder about the value system in the country when a bunch of former footballers, apparently down on their luck, get an audience with the country’s president, so they can argue they should get a share of the spoils from the upcoming World Cup.

The argument is that as former professionals they contributed to the development of the domestic game and are therefore entitled to some of the windfall from the tournament in 2010.

That they would be welcomed to the presidential guesthouse in Pretoria by Kgalema Motlanthe and given his ear and of his time bewilders me.

The group as known as ‘Legends’ is an association of former players from mostly the 1970s and 1980s, who are now on the fringes on the South Africa game. Some have coached since hanging up their boots but most faded into obscurity at the end of their playing days.

As ex-players they believe it was their labour that has led to the position where this week we mark 500 days to South Africa’s historic hosting of the World Cup finals on the Africa continent.

And they want now to stick their snouts in the World Cup trough, pleading with the president to intervene on their behalf.

What baloney! Such arrogance.

Firstly, there is going to be no windfall from the World Cup, the cost of bringing the event to this country has been sucking dry the national fiscus. Money from ticket sales money will go to the South African Football Association, but this is money that must go to building infrastructure and development programmes, not to the pockets of has-beens whose lives haven’t panned out the way they could of.

I have nothing but contempt for the surprisingly large number of former footballers who believe the game still owes them a living.

These were people given a privileged gift of talent; the unrivaled ability to make a living from playing while their contemporaries went down the mines, worked in factories, sweatshop or suburban gardens.

Their playing days were filled with society’s adulation; there was always plenty of wine, women and song.

And, as we see with the current generation of professionals, little or no provision is made for after their playing days. As with life’s ever-turning circle, their football career came to an end and so the glory days.

Many footballers, of course, have gone on to become great coaches, efficient administrators and of great benefit to the game in other arenas. But those aren’t the lot you see with begging bowls at the president’s door.

Instead it is a generation who do not equate work and effort with reward. Just because they delighted supporters with their tricks and talents decades ago, it does not mean they are owed a single cent.

Indeed, the so-called ‘Legends’ should be paying back the game for the privilege they had of being good at it, by working with youth and teaching the new generations. And on a voluntary basis too.

Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24. 


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