Se­cret Foot­baller

What Tham­sanqa Gabuza en­dured was emo­tional abuse that reached boil­ing point, ac­cord­ing to this month’s em­pa­thetic Se­cret Foot­baller.

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After watch­ing Or­lando Pi­rates striker Tham­sanqa Gabuza get­ting booed by his own sup­port­ers, I would like to take this op­por­tu­nity to ex­plain to peo­ple what play­ers go through when that hap­pens. It’s easy for peo­ple say you must just ig­nore the boos, but the truth is, ev­ery­body han­dles these kinds of emo­tions dif­fer­ently. Some play­ers ig­nore it and con­tinue with the game, but oth­ers like Gabuza and my­self don’t feel we war­ranted the boos be­cause we were work­ing hard for the team, and that our hard work was not ap­pre­ci­ated. Peo­ple must put them­selves in Gabuza’s shoes … I mean, how many times did he get booed and shouted at by sup­port­ers? It hap­pened all the time. In one of the matches I played, I found my­self get­ting booed by my own sup­port­ers right through­out the match. And then all of a sud­den after I scored, the very same peo­ple that were boo­ing started cel­e­brat­ing and go­ing crazy. I turned around, looked at them and showed them my mid­dle-fin­ger be­fore telling them to ‘ Voet­sek’. I got a yel­low card for that. I’m not say­ing what I did was right, yet fans boo you, but when you score they want to cel­e­brate with you as if noth­ing hap­pened. That is not fair. As play­ers we go through so many emo­tions. Be­ing on the bench also adds to that, and this is what I think af­fected Gabuza. The rea­son why I think this is an im­por­tant is­sue is be­cause foot­ball is a game of emo­tions and this be­comes a men­tal prob­lem later in a player’s ca­reer. When peo­ple who should be cheer­ing you start boo­ing and in­sult­ing you, it gets to a point where it af­fects you psy­cho­log­i­cally. Fans need to un­der­stand that as play­ers, we are un­der pres­sure to per­form and do well for the team. In the case of Gabuza, the first thing that came into my mind when I saw that was the ig­no­rance on the part of sup­port­ers. What they did to Gabuza is a form of abuse. As much as fans are an­gry, what they did was emo­tion­ally abus­ing him. This af­fects play­ers when they are with their fam­i­lies as well be­cause some of that abuse car­ries on off the pitch. Some­times you find these ig­no­rant peo­ple abus­ing you when you are with your fam­ily. Some peo­ple will walk straight to you in pub­lic and say ‘here is this cow’. Of­ten when they say that, they are not say­ing it in a nice way, but say it with ha­tred in their voices. Imag­ine your part­ner and kids hear­ing that. Some­times you find that your kids are shy amongst other kids be­cause their fa­ther is la­belled a cow. That af­fects their con­fi­dence, so it’s not only a prob­lem on the pitch, but off the pitch as well. As a per­son I’m a lit­tle ag­gres­sive, so if that sort of thing hap­pened to me, I wouldn’t re­act well. For­tu­nately Gabuza is a very strong per­son. Even on Twit­ter and Face­book peo­ple call him all these funny names, but he doesn’t re­act. But against Black Leop­ards it reached boil­ing point where he couldn’t take it any­more. What makes it worse is that he didn’t score, which made fans even more up­set. If he had scored a goal be­fore storm­ing off the pitch, maybe that in­ci­dent would have been over­looked by the sup­port­ers. Fans must un­der­stand that Gabuza might not be the most pro­lific goalscorer, but he is one of the hard­est-work­ing play­ers in the PSL. When he plays, de­fend­ers do not sleep – he is not afraid of get­ting kicked and is not afraid to run and hus­tle. Through his hard work, other play­ers ben­e­fit and sup­port­ers don’t see that. But be­cause he is a striker, peo­ple ex­pect him to score all the time.

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