Special, and they know it
Wayward behaviour can eclipse the talent of players who have the fans at their feet, writes Timothy Molobi
They dazzle the fans and mesmerise the opposition with their tricks, silky skills and 90-degree turns on the ball, but they are often criticised for overelaboration and showboating.
They are loathed by some coaches, but are darlings to many fans. These players are among the rare breed who epitomise a unique South African football style.
They have crowds on their feet with their unique trademarks of South African football entertainment – tsamayas, shibobos and “show-meyour-number” skills. But... Instead of blossoming and taking their careers forward, they end up nowhere because of their wayward behaviour.
Their similarities? They do not last at clubs as they hop from one to the other.
It is true that birds of a feather flock together.
In a week when Platinum Stars decided enough was enough with talented Masibusane Zongo, SuperSport United also decided to cut ties with equally gifted Mark Mayambela.
They have long been heralded as arguably two of the best footballers of their generation, and yet are two of the greatest wastes of talent encountered by the football fraternity.
The two join a long list of talented but wayward players who have been derailed by their off-thefield behaviour.
The list includes former Bafana Bafana captain Mbulelo Mabizela and Jabu Mahlangu, who has since mended his ways.
Mabizela’s contract with Royal Eagles was terminated in March after he was found guilty of misconduct at a disciplinary hearing.
Last Friday, Stars announced that they had parted ways with the 26year-old after his latest misdemeanours.
Mahlangu has turned into a role model for the younger generation and uses his experience to inspire others.
Zongo was given a lifeline by Stars’ coach Cavin Johnson, but he failed to use the opportunity.
The talented Zongo has been around for almost a decade now since he first surfaced at SuperSport United in 2008.
He showed glimpses of brilliance when he burst on to the scene, but that did not stop his career from taking a tumble.
He has already been to not fewer than five clubs since leaving United. He has turned out for the likes of Vasco da Gama, Bidvest Wits and Chippa United.
The nimble-footed dribbling wizard parted ways with Chippa, having just completed a programme for alcohol abuse at a rehabilitation centre, before being rescued by Stars last year. But alas, he was at it again and the club said enough is enough.
Mayambela is another sad case. “Professor”, because of his gifted left foot, has also been around the block, but his career looks stagnant after he was shown the door by United less than four months after signing a three-and-a-half-year contract. He was on the books of Chippa United, where he showed signs of the old Mayambela who first turned out for Bloemfontein Celtic.
The 28-year-old previously played for Orlando Pirates between 2010 and 2013 before moving to Mpumalanga Black Aces in the 2013/14 season, but he left under a cloud barely three months into his one-year contract.
Aces said at the time that Mayambela was let go “for gross misbehaviour”.
He has also turned out for National First Division side Royal Eagles and had a short stint with Djurgårdens IF in Sweden.
Mayambela’s coach at SuperSport United, Stuart Baxter, could not be drawn into the reasons they decided to stop the midfielder from training with the team.
The Englishman agreed that Mayambela was hugely talented, but there were other club policies that he needed to adhere to. He said the club got fed up with his antics, and didn’t elaborate.
“He is one of the most talented players I have seen, but talent alone is not enough and he struggled to get more out of that talent. He reminded me of a board at Anfield which reads: genius is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. His behaviour does not match his talent and players have to complement their talent with hard work. The sooner players realise this, the better for them.”
League-winning coach Ted Dumitru believes players such as Zongo and Mayambela need to be handled with proper care.
Although the ball was in the players’ court to mend their ways, he said coaches needed to understand and know how to manage these prima donnas.
Players like these were a rare breed and worth the special attention, he said.
“There is a new principle in training and coaching methodology that seeks to recognise the nature of a player. If there is any clash between the training and coaching mentality and the nature of the player, the player will suffer. Unless you provide a conducive environment, they are not going to deliver or excel, despite their gifts.”
Dumitru was credited with getting the late Emmanuel Scara Ngobese on the straight and narrow during his time at Kaizer Chiefs, where the midfielder blossomed.
HARD LESSONS Masibusane Zongo has been given the boot by Platinum Stars TROUBLED Mark Mayambela has been barred from training at SuperSport INSPIRATION Jabu Mahlangu has turned his life around
MENTOR Ted Dumitru says coaches should know how to manage talented players