Se­cret Foot­baller

Kick Off - - INSIDE -

The Se­cret Foot­baller gives thoughts on how the COVID-19 pan­demic could change the face of South African foot­ball.

With the tug-of-war be­tween the South African Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (SAFA) and the Premier Soc­cer League (PSL) re­gard­ing the restart of the Pre­mier­ship, spon­sor Absa pulling out and ru­mours of Bloem­fontein Celtic and Bid­vest Wits sales, these are some of the most chal­leng­ing times in the history of South African foot­ball. This edi­tion’s Se­cret Foot­baller – a for­mer player – be­lieves we are not yet out of the woods.

This is a very dif­fi­cult time for ev­ery­one. There are other coun­tries that have de­cided to end their leagues and there are coun­tries that have de­cided to forge ahead, and by do­ing so ob­served all the health is­sues and pro­to­cols.

If the league ends, that means a team will be crowned cham­pi­ons. But if I’m on the team that is fight­ing rel­e­ga­tion, what comes of it? This is the same thing that hap­pened to Bon­gani Zungu in France with Amiens.

An­other is­sue which con­cerns me a lot is the fi­nan­cial as­pect – what hap­pens if the league goes beyond the June 30? Will the play­ers def­i­nitely get paid?

Mov­ing on to the fol­low­ing sea­son – what is go­ing to hap­pen? Are the [PSL] teams go­ing to have enough money? Will I, as a player, be deal­ing with is­sues of pay cuts? These are ques­tions that I’m con­cerned about. And if we go back and play with COVID-19 still spread­ing, if I catch it, how will it af­fect my body and how is my body go­ing to re­act to it if I have other un­der­ly­ing health is­sues? We are in a very, very un­com­fort­able space right now.

Even though there are dis­cus­sions be­tween the League, SAFA and Min­is­ter of Sport – there is noth­ing more painful than not know­ing what is go­ing to hap­pen in fu­ture.

If you signed a con­tract in June last year for three years, you know how much you are go­ing to get, and you have planned your life. Now you don’t know what is go­ing to hap­pen and you may have com­mit­ted your­self to a num­ber of things.

If the team comes back and can’t pay you a full salary, then what hap­pens to the bond on your house, be­cause that will af­fect you psy­cho­log­i­cally?

I think I will find com­fort at the point when they an­nounce what is go­ing to hap­pen go­ing for­ward.

If the League doesn’t play for six months, will the team be able to pay me be­cause that is our place of com­fort and hap­pi­ness?

We do talk about what might hap­pen as play­ers and for­mer play­ers be­cause things are tough. Absa is not go­ing to con­tinue as the league’s spon­sors and we also don’t know the state of readi­ness of the league to get an­other spon­sor in time for the next sea­son, and how quickly will they be able to do that.

From what we un­der­stand, Sport­pesa is also leav­ing Cape Town City as their spon­sor. So, who is ready at this point in time to in­vest in foot­ball when things are like this be­cause many spon­sors are pulling out from the game be­cause they would have been dealt a huge blow fi­nan­cially. It’s a big cause for con­cern.

Teams are re­struc­tur­ing and when that hap­pens they will look to pay play­ers less be­cause they don’t have the fi­nan­cial muscle. Play­ers, who are high earn­ers, might be side­lined in favour of the younger gen­er­a­tion so that the team could sus­tain it­self.

We will then have more is­sues of ter­mi­nated con­tracts, un­law­ful set­tle­ments and fights be­tween play­ers and clubs. This is one of the things I’m wor­ried about – am I the one who is go­ing to get the chop?

Where else am I go­ing to get em­ploy­ment where I get value for money and get re­spected as a se­nior player that con­trib­utes? I might bring the ex­per­tise, but the fi­nan­cial as­pect does not match up to what I bring be­cause of the sit­u­a­tion we are faced. Then there’s down­grade in my life.

These are things that make me think that this sit­u­a­tion might not work well but we hope things will be fine. What we have been hop­ing is for, is for teams to talk to play­ers so that they give them the com­fort be­cause in this cur­rent sit­u­a­tion we need to work to­gether.

If you are go­ing to re­duce my salary by 20 or 30 per­cent, let me know be­cause play­ers love the team.

But some­times the way teams be­have make the play­ers fight back be­cause they feel like they are be­ing at­tacked or dis­re­spected.

“WHO IS READY AT THIS POINT IN TIME TO IN­VEST IN FOOT­BALL WHEN THINGS ARE LIKE THIS?”

This is easy, speak to the play­ers and ex­plain the sit­u­a­tion and the play­ers will un­der­stand be­cause they un­der­stand the teams they are play­ing for.

These are cer­tain and the scari­est we have ever ex­pe­ri­enced in our lives.

The most im­por­tant advice I can give to play­ers right now is to in­vest in them­selves. Spend time, think, and re­flect. If there is one thing COVID-19 has forced us to do is to look at life dif­fer­ently all sec­tors of the econ­omy, we have been chal­lenged.

One of the lessons we have learned from this pan­demic is that ed­u­ca­tion is im­por­tant, and play­ers need to be savvy with how they are spend­ing their money. They must not bite more than they can chew – buy things that you can af­ford and pay off eas­ily. And they need to start learn­ing for life after foot­ball.

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