The retired Moroka Swallows midfielder explains why he labels all football people as “crooks” after a difficult end to his distinguished career in Dobsonville.
His parents predicted he would be a good man, so they named him Zemsisi Goodman Mazibuko, who grew up to be an honest and hardworking footballer who always played with heart. Unfortunately the midfielder left the game bitter following the demise of Moroka Swallows, which is why he now labels all involved in football as “crooks” in this open interview with KICK OFF’s Lovemore Moyo.
If there was ever a footballer whose game was solely modelled on always giving his all on the field, then Goodman Mazibuko was the perfect textbook example of that.
The diligent midfielder never did anything fancy on the pitch, preferring to keep it simple in the centre of the park by breaking down opposition moves and playing the simple pass to a teammate when in possession. He was never flowery even when fielded in wide positions, and was a disciplined player who coaches always kept in the team due his effective tackling and purposeful passing ability. It was thus no surprise that he broke into a strong Qwaqwa Stars first team as a teenager in 1995, and quickly established himself as a regular in a side that had won the Coca-Cola Cup the previous year. By the time he left after Ea Lla Koto were bought out by the league as part of the process of trimming down the division from 18 to 16 clubs in 2002, Mazibuko had made 239 starts with a satisfactory return of 24 goals. The then-27-year-old then joined Orlando Pirates where he lasted just a season before joining Soweto rivals Moroka Swallows where he played until he retired in 2009, aged 34. By the time he hung up his boots, Mazibuko had made 397 starts in professional club football, with five Bafana Bafana caps to his name. “I was never a skilful player, but I was always a hard worker,” he acknowledges, before discussing why players in his mould are now few and far between. “I don’t know why players like some of us are no longer there. People used to tell me that I played as if Moroka
Swallows was my team from home. People just didn’t understand the passion I had for the game, and appreciating the fact that one day I may never get this chance again is what pushed me. You must know that when you play, it is not only about you and your family, but many other people who support you and the club, so you must put the chance to good use at all times. “Nowadays you have players who are not grateful for the opportunity and that is why I think most of our skilful players don’t last in the game. Their careers are shorter than those of the hardworking players with no skill. With hardworking players, you can change the coaches, but they will remain in the team. Most of the time I never sat on the bench, yet I wasn’t skilful. My weapon was making sure that when I got onto the field, I worked hard and played like there wouldn’t be another game played. What was important is that I could play for and with the team, with the aim of always making sure I contribute.”
A new path
Mazibuko is now a sports officer at the University of Free State (Qwaqwa campus) which houses SAB League team Maluti-a-Phofung Association. The retired player’s task is to oversee all the sporting codes at the university, from volleyball and netball to cricket, tennis and football. “All sporting codes have coaches, so I’m not even coaching the football team,” he says before explaining how he landed the job. “I have been here for the past five months. It was a post that was advertised, so I then applied and got called for an interview to make a presentation for the first time in my life. The first question I was asked in that interview was what l could tell them about myself. Since I had played professional football from 1995 to 2009, it meant they had to listen to me for a long eight minutes! I’m happy here because I’m at home. “The best part about this job is that it is all about sports, so it is not like I’m in a completely new territory. While I am learning about other sports, I have to make sure that the one I know is pushed to the highest level.” Mazibuko could have been a teacher by now, had he completed his Secondary School Teaching Diploma at the Siya College of Education. “I didn’t complete my diploma because of football commitments, but I still want to finish the outstanding subjects because it will eventually come in handy in my current job,” he says. “An issue I realised while studying was that I would have had to be marking books for classes of 80 students, so I knew I wouldn’t cope. Nowadays it is better because there are a lot of private schools.” Considering the myriad of stories being told about the struggles of former footballers, Mazibuko admits the transition into the uncertain post-playing period is no easy ride. “The truth is that when you retire, it becomes a very difficult phase in your life because everyone shuns you,” he starts. “Club bosses are not fair to former players at times because after doing all these coaching courses, you then don’t get the job and it seems they are happy to see you suffering afterwards. I have a CAF B Licence, but it hasn’t gotten me a job with any club. The trouble with these courses is that you go there with high expectations after being told you need qualifications to get into coaching, but after you get the papers you don’t get a job and continue being told you have no coaching experience. It is frustrating. “Footballers are unfortunate in that after your playing days, there are no guarantees of a job and the expectation is that you have a lot of money. Luckily, I have never had to go around begging clubs because I didn’t make football my only option, plus I didn’t fall into the trap of not investing in important things. When people see you on television, the expectation is that you are earning a lot, yet at times club bosses don’t even pay all your signing-on fees.” Based on his own experience, Mazibuko feels being a professional footballer brings more financial suffering than reward.
"WHEN YOU PLAY, IT IS NOT ONLY ABOUT YOU AND YOUR FAMILY, BUT MANY OTHER PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT YOU AND THE CLUB."
“About 70-80% of footballers struggle when they stop playing and that is why if I had a son, I would discourage him from wanting to be a professional footballer because you will be planning to suffer in your life,” says the father of two girls. “I’m lucky that my wife was always working, so even when it was a struggle after I retired, we were still able to put food on the table for our daughters. My first born is 16 and attends a private school, and she has it all set since one of my benefits here at the university is that my kids can study for free. The younger girl is 10 years old and also at a private school, so my biggest worry, which has always been my kids, is covered for now.”
Struggles at Swallows
After all the effort he put into the game as a player, Mazibuko was left with a sour taste in his mouth following a difficult end to his career while in Dobsonville. He understands that he will be labelled bitter and angry by some based on the fact that this is what is said about most ex-footballers, yet the midfielder says he felt used and abused by his last club Swallows. “Do you know that I once went a year without being paid when I was assistant coach for the first team at Swallows, just because I loved the club?” he reveals. “I was using my car to training every day while I had kids to take care of. I was even using money I wasn’t supposed to use for the sake of the team. They were promising heaven and earth through all that time, even though it was apparent that the club was no longer being run as professionally as before. We didn’t even know who to approach in management anymore if we had issues. I told [ex-Swallows boss] Leon Prins to be upfront so that we knew the truth. The team’s name has now been changed to Swallows FC because they are running away from paying us what we are owed, which is not fair.” Non-payment of salaries for a year is not all that has left Mazibuko hostile towards the game that brought him fame. “The worst thing was that even though there was UIF (Unemployment Insurance Fund) money being deducted on our payslips, when I went to the UIF offices when I was out of work, I was told I was not ever registered,” he says. “I was surprised that this kind of cheating was going on. Why is the PSL allowing this? Where is the money being deducted from players’ salaries for UIF going to if UIF knows nothing about it? I’m sure even up to now it is still the same with players’ money being deducted for UIF. This is when you start asking if this league is being run professionally. “This thing hurt me so much and led to me losing interest in watching football on television, not to even mention going to the stadium. At times people get surprised when I don’t show interest in football. Even at the university I don’t play in the staff team because I’m still hurting. I just prefer to do office work. I’m not even interested in any seniors’ football around here which is why I prefer helping kids because I know that all football people are crooks, from A-Z. They will promise you heaven and earth, yet at the end of the day when they chase you they don’t even consider that you are also a human being with a family that needs to eat. Nowadays to watch a game for 15 minutes is too much for me, and that is why I don’t even know what is happening in the game.”
"THIS THING HURT ME SO MUCH AND LED TO ME LOSING INTEREST IN WATCHING FOOTBALL ON TELEVISION, NOT TO EVEN MENTION GOING TO THE STADIUM."