Mbulelo Mabizela

For­mer Bafana Bafana cap­tain on who is to blame for his past trou­bles

Kick Off - - INSIDE - BY ROBIN-DUKE MADLALA | Twit­ter: @duke_robin

Mbulelo Mabizela has with­drawn from the pub­lic eye and barely ut­ters any­thing in pub­lic. At­tempts in the past by a range of re­porters from around the coun­try have come up short. The rea­son for this pas­siveag­gres­sive pub­lic with­drawal may lie in his dim view of the me­dia, who he says con­trib­uted to his demise. The for­mer Bafana Bafana cap­tain says the me­dia was too harsh on him dur­ing some of the more tur­bu­lent times of his ca­reer – which, in all fair­ness, was of­ten. Dur­ing the Siyabonga Sang­weni May­oral Sport Day, held in July, the 36-year-old shunned the Or­lando Pirates TV crew who were cap­tur­ing leg­ends par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Sang­weni Se­lect XI, which played against Um­folozi Leg­ends XI.

In­stead Bheka Phakathi, who also

played for Pirates with Mabizela, was the one who was able to give them the in­ter­view. While other play­ers were also lap­ping up the me­dia at­ten­tion, ‘’Old John’’ was un­com­fort­able with the me­dia lens. It just showed how much the man con­tin­ues to suf­fer when the spot­light is fixed in his di­rec­tion, even at this junc­ture where he has called time on his play­ing ca­reer. ‘’My ca­reer was on an­other level that oth­ers failed to reach. But all the mem­o­ries I have in foot­ball, you guys [the me­dia] de­stroyed it; you guys just de­stroyed ev­ery­thing,’’ re­veals a vis­i­bly scorned Mabizela. ‘’In my life I was de­stroyed and the me­dia spoilt ev­ery­thing of mine. I can’t even pick out what the big­gest high­light of my foot­ball ca­reer was. I don’t even want to talk about it be­cause it is very dif­fi­cult to do so. ‘’When it comes to the me­dia, I’m fine with­out it. I had the right to turn Pirates’ TV crew down. It is part of the rea­son why I don’t want to be in­volved in coach­ing. I’m not in­ter­ested. ‘’There are so many things I can do, but not coach­ing. I can help

“ALL THE MEM­O­RIES I HAVE IN FOOT­BALL, YOU GUYS [THE ME­DIA] DE­STROYED IT; YOU GUYS JUST DE­STROYED EV­ERY­THING.’’ (Main) Mabizela was the youngestever cap­tain for Bafana Bafana.

here and there. I’m en­joy­ing my life af­ter foot­ball – why should I stress about it? Life goes on. “My foot­ball ca­reer is fin­ished and it is why I don’t even want to go back there and talk about my life. My ca­reer is fin­ished, but I en­joyed it and the whole world en­joyed it too.’’ ‘’OJ’’ also says he can­not fault his par­ents and friends for a pos­si­ble lack of guid­ance, re­gard­ing how his ca­reer turned out. He in­sists he was not aware how tal­ented he was, but says he was not sup­posed to be mis­treated for the mis­takes he made. ‘’Proper guid­ance was there at home, but it’s just that I met the wrong peo­ple and things in this world. Un­for­tu­nately no one in life is im­mune to mak­ing mis­takes,’’ he says. “Those mis­takes are mine and they will re­main mine. I’ve sorted some of them out. Of course there are some mis­takes that cost me my ca­reer, but there’s no need for me moan about it. ‘’Join­ing Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur was not some­thing I was ex­pect­ing. It hap­pened very fast and there was no rea­son to say no to the op­por­tu­nity. ‘’Things hap­pened so quickly: from Mar­itzburg City it was Pirates. At Pirates I didn’t play long enough be­fore the Spurs op­por­tu­nity came, so things were flow­ing. It was not the life I had planned. I was just play­ing my own foot­ball and then things hap­pened.’’

The for­mer AmaZulu de­fender says

be­ing named Bafana Bafana cap­tain had its own chal­lenges and it was more dif­fi­cult when they lost games. He says the me­dia would ex­ag­ger­ate things to make them look worse than they ac­tu­ally were. It was tough to deal with, he says. ‘’My first game for Bafana was against Egypt in 2001,’’ Mabizela says. ‘’I think be­ing the youngest cap­tain of the na­tional team opened a lot of doors for me. I won’t say I was ex­cited be­cause it was a big role on my shoul­ders and a chal­leng­ing one too. At that time it was hard to cope. ‘’When we came away with the loss, the me­dia made it ap­pear ab­so­lutely bad in the pa­pers. You guys made our lives dif­fi­cult. I didn’t en­vis­age that it would hap­pen to me so soon.” Mabizela feels the me­dia was on his case even more upon his re­turn from Europe to join Mamelodi Sundowns in the 2006/07 sea­son, and things spi­raled down­hill from there. ‘’When I went to Europe af­ter leav­ing Pirates, I’m not say­ing there were no chal­lenges, but it was worse when I re­turned,’’ he ad­mit­ted. ‘’When I re­turned to South Africa, the worst was still to come. I had

“JOIN­ING TOT­TEN­HAM HOT­SPUR WAS NOT SOME­THING I WAS EX­PECT­ING. IT HAP­PENED VERY FAST AND THERE WAS NO REA­SON TO SAY NO TO THE OP­POR­TU­NITY.”

huge prob­lems and it was mostly with the me­dia’s in­volve­ment. I’ll not say the me­dia killed me, be­cause jour­nal­ists didn’t only do that to me – it hap­pened to other play­ers as well. ‘’But the me­dia treated me as the per­fect per­son who was not sup­posed to make mis­takes. It felt like I was not sup­posed to drink, be at night clubs, not al­lowed to have a girl­friend, all of that. ‘’I’m not go­ing to give you ex­act an­swers, be­cause all these things hap­pened long ago, and it is very hard to re­call all of them be­cause there are so many things.’’

Mabizela also hit out at South

African foot­ball and says there’s noth­ing that in­ter­ests him in the lo­cal foot­ball scene. Even teams like Sundowns, who won the CAF Cham­pi­ons League last year, don’t im­press him. “I don’t watch much foot­ball, but it’s not that I don’t like it any­more,’’ he says. ‘’But tell me, what re­ally im­presses you about our foot­ball? Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs, Sundowns? If it’s Sundowns, what re­ally im­presses you when you watch­ing them? I’m telling you the truth. Am I wrong by telling the truth? ‘’Our foot­ball stan­dards have dropped badly. How many South African play­ers are leav­ing for Europe nowa­days? How many, tell me? ‘’I’ll tell you some­thing – I had a help­ing hand in Bon­gani Khu­malo go­ing to Spurs (in 2010). “I’m not so sure if we are go­ing to play at the World Cup next year, or the Na­tions Cup in 2019.”

The tal­ented de­fender added that

he’s not bit­ter be­cause of how he was re­leased by AmaZulu. He feels he did his job, al­though it was not enough to pre­vent the Dur­ban-based out­fit from be­ing de­moted to the Na­tional First Di­vi­sion dur­ing the 2014/15 sea­son. He joined Usuthu in 2015 af­ter he was re­leased by then Mpumalanga Black Aces in Oc­to­ber 2014 for un­known rea­sons, af­ter man­age­ment de­cided to ter­mi­nate his con­tract. He scored four goals in 12 league ap­pear­ances for Usuthu, fin­ish­ing as one of the top scor­ers, while also be­ing sent off twice dur­ing that pe­riod. ‘’I will not say see­ing AmaZulu suf­fer­ing rel­e­ga­tion cut short my ca­reer in the PSL. I did well at AmaZulu,’’ added Mabizela, who then played for Royal Ea­gles in the NFD af­ter leav­ing Usuthu. ‘’I did well there. What I was brought to do I did, and I played 90-per­cent of their games in the sec­ond half of the sea­son. I won’t blame for them for de­cid­ing to re­lease me.’’

“OUR FOOT­BALL STAN­DARDS HAVE DROPPED BADLY. HOW MANY SOUTH AFRICAN PLAY­ERS ARE LEAV­ING FOR EUROPE NOWA­DAYS? HOW MANY, TELL ME?”

Muham­mad Ali,Ali back when he was still Cas­sius Mar­cel­lus Clay,Clay used to have a testy, tetchy re­la­tion­ship with them. Recorded history says that Ali told them af­ter he beat Sonny, “Eat your words!” Even Alex Fer­gu­son, the great for­mer Manch­ester United man­ager, some­times had a sticky re­la­tion­ship with them. Them, in this sce­nario, refers to “the me­dia”. And now Mbulelo “Old John” Mabizela has put the blame for his fallen ca­reer squarely at the door of the me­dia. In this EX­CLU­SIVE in­ter­view with Robin-Duke Madlala, Mabizela con­firms his retirement from the game, ad­mits to “mak­ing mis­takes” and tells KICK OFF that the me­dia hounded him down from the top.

(Above left) OJ cap­tain­ing Or­lando Pirates at a young age.

(Left) OJ turn­ing out for AmaZulu be­fore re­tir­ing.

(Right) Com­ing up against Cris­tiano Ronaldo in Eng­land.

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