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.