Former Kaizer Chiefs players Tefu Mashamaite and
Mandla Masango made the headlines once more last week.
The pair, together with goalkeeper Itumeleng
Khune, have been hogging the headlines
since early this year when it emerged that their contracts with The Glamour
Boys were coming to an end in June.
Last week's latest news was that Mashamaite had joined
Swedish club BK Hacken on a two-and-a-half year contract and Masango had penned
a three-year contract with Denmark's Randers FC.
Around almost the same time
(or week rather) that news of the two former Chiefs players broke, Yaya Toure (Manchester
City), Arouna Kone (Everton) both from Ivory Coast, Algerian Riyad Mahrez (Leicester
City), Rudy Gestede, (Aston Villa) from Benin, Nigerian Odion Ighalo (Watford),
Ghanaian Andre Ayew (Swansea) and the Senegalese pair of Papiss Cisse (Newcastle) and
Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham United) made
headlines of their own.
All these African players
scored important goals for their Premier League clubs in the
opening weekend of the season.
Now - here is the contrast -
while players that we regard as top quality in our country sign for clubs that
hardly make any waves in Europe - you'll agree that the names BK Hacken and
Randers FC do not feature prominently in the Champions League.
Also, Denmark and
Sweden hardly feature high up on the list of the top European leagues.
So the question becomes:
Have our players become so desperate to move to Europe that any destination will do?
As things stand, South Africa only has two players - Steven Pienaar
(Everton) and Tokelo Rantie (newly-promoted Bournemouth) - in the top flight in England.
The rest, such as Bafana
Bafana default captain Dean Furman (who was with Doncaster Rovers but is now
said to be training with SuperSport United), Kagisho Dikgacoi and Kgosi Ntlhe,
ply their trade in the English Championship and League One in that country.
We also have Thulani Serero
- whom I rate as the best South African player currently - and Kamohelo Mokotjo playing
in the Dutch League.
Other South African players
are spread across not-so-strong European leagues such as in Belgium and other
God-forsaken places that rarely grab international headlines.
To his credit, Mashamaite
has said that his move was not about money - it's said he will earn around R144 000 per month - but a fulfillment
of a promise he made to himself that he will one day play in Europe.
Be that as it may be, I
think his and Masango's moves smack of desperation and I doubt it's worth the
sacrifices of uprooting yourself, adjusting to a new culture and withstanding the
mostly cold European weather.
One just hopes that it
eventually turns out to be a step to better leagues and not just a
continuation of South African players moving overseas just for the sake of
crossing some ocean.
Until South African players
move to top leagues such as the EPL, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, the
German Bundesliga or even the French Ligue 1, Bafana Bafana will struggle
against their African opposition that boasts players in such leagues.
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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