Mark Gleeson

Bury the xenophobia

2009-06-03 13:38
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
Mark Gleeson

The xenophobic outlook of many in this country has already had deadly consequences.

But despite the revulsion and horror many espoused after the attacks on foreigners last year, the insular attitude of many of our fellow citizens is seemingly still as strong as ever.

Although it can in no way compare with those savage attacks, the widespread negative reaction to Kaizer Chiefs signing a new coach from Serbia for next season has again reinforced the small-minded mentality many pundits here have.

Admittedly Vladimir Vermezovic is no international star, but because his name and achievements are unknown in this country, his appointment has been met with widespread derision.

But is it not an arrogance to assume because most South Africans have never heard of him, he is not good enough to coach one of the country’s top clubs?

Vermezovic comes from Serbia, a country with a long-standing international coaching tradition that far outweighs the size and population of the east European country. The attacking attitude and flair that Serbs expose in their outlook on the game has heard them a reputation of being the Brazil of Europe when it comes to the way they play the game.

Many from the former Yugoslavia have achieved with aplomb in African football, including past Nations Cup triumphs. Blagoje Vidinic coached the first black African side that went to the World Cup in 1974. On the world stage, Bora Milunitovic has worked at more World Cups than any other.

Most of the alleged experts covering South African football have limited knowledge of the world game, having been exposed to little else but the PSL and the English football.

To condemn a coach before he has a chance to prove his bona fides is narrow minded and … frankly … xenophobic.

New faces with fresh ideas are vital to the continued progress of standards in the Premier Soccer League. To dismiss outsiders because you’ve never heard of them is to eventually wallow in the mediocrity of the recycled coaches who continually pop up on our radar and are increasingly found wanting as the game has developed beyond their limited ideas.

We should be proud our league is attractive enough to entice a growing number of coaches who have worked at major clubs.

Vermezovic was previously in charge at Partizan Belgrade, a top club that has produced many top stars.

Just because it is not Manchester United or Liverpool does not mean he cannot turn Chiefs into a championship winning side next season.

To the detractors, take your head out of the sand and bury the xenophobia. Let’s first see what this new coach can do before condemning him.

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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