Players must take centre stage
Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)
Who is the Spanish Football Association president? Who are the CEO and chairperson of the Spanish La Liga?
Got you there!
While you are still scratching your head, let me make it easier for you: Who are the Soccer World Cup champions? Which country is ranked No 1 on the FIFA rankings? Which country are the reigning European champions after successfully defending their title?
I guess you struggled with the first two questions, but found questions three to five a breeze.
The reason I’m going this route is to show once more that there is so much wrong with South African soccer.
Had I asked you to give me the names of the South African Football Association (SAFA) president and CEO as well as those of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) chairperson and CEO, you would have rattled them out without shedding a sweat.
This is one of the things that are wrong with our football.
Soccer bosses take more centre stage than players do. They are more prominent and occupy more space in the media than the players. This is one of the reasons the country has seen crowds dwindle to an appalling number in the past few years.
Go to Spain, England, Germany and Italy, you will find stadiums packed week in and week out regardless of which clubs are playing.
Ask any soccer follower who are the top players in England and Spain, they will sing the names out without an effort.
This is because the players are at the forefront as these are the people the fans pay their hard-earned cash to watch every week.
However, here in South Africa, it is all about this soccer official and this soccer organisations.
SAFA and the PSL are always competing for media space in such a way that it is even clouded which is the mother body and which one is a special member of the other as they compete for the same space.
Soccer bosses are always in the spotlight over their petty politics.
This week, after Mamelodi Sundowns suffered their second league defeat at the hands of Maritzburg United (after they were beaten by arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs), the club’s president, Patrice Motsepe, has been hogging headlines even without uttering a word.
Several stories have been written about his next move on the coach. Poor Johan Neeskens!
But no one has spoken to the players to find out what was wrong and how they felt about the whole shebang that despite having one of the best assembled squads in the PSL, they have failed to deliver.
This is a South African syndrome that sees officials being treated more importantly than the players while the latter are treated as mere commodities.
Even in the so-called smaller teams, people know more about their bosses and about the team than the players.
And then we sit and wonder why giants like SuperSport fall all over themselves to buy television rights for European leagues such as the English, German, Spanish and Italian. It is because of the big-name players plying their trade in these leagues and not the officials.
But here in South Africa, the story is different.
Even when Barcelona came here to play against Mamelodi Sundowns, there were reports of Motsepe having to trade with striker Katlego Mphela to give him Brazilian Ronaldinho’s shirt.
I mean, players usually exchange jerseys among themselves with no interference from the big bosses.
The sooner this attitude changes, the better, and once our players become central and pivotal to reports about soccer, I can assure it will go a long way to address the stadium attendance issue.
I mean, if instead of asking you who the Spanish FA president, La Liga CEO and chairperson are, I asked you to give me the names of players in the Spanish national team, you would have rattled out the likes of Iker Casillas, Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Carles Puyol.
See, that’s wherein lies the rub of my argument.S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.
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