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