Spe­cial, and they know it

Way­ward be­hav­iour can eclipse the tal­ent of play­ers who have the fans at their feet, writes Ti­mothy Molobi

CityPress - - Sport -

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.

PHOTO: LEFTY SHIVAMBU / GALLO IM­AGES PHOTO: SA­MUEL SHIVAMBU / BACKPAGEPIX PHOTO: LEFTY SHIVAMBU / GALLO IM­AGES

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

PHOTO: MUZI NTOMBELA / BACKPAGEPIX

MEN­TOR Ted Du­mitru says coaches should know how to man­age tal­ented play­ers

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