PSL Vet­er­ans

For all the neg­a­tiv­ity that tends to be thrown by crit­ics about foot­ballers over the age of 30, there is a size­able bri­gade of veteran play­ers still go­ing strong and dis­cred­it­ing the wide­spread be­lief that they should hang up their boots. By Love­more Moyo

Kick Off - - Inside -

Some of the league’s old­est stal­warts shoot down the no­tion of judg­ing a player based on age as they con­tinue to prove them­selves at the high­est level de­spite reach­ing the age of 30.

What do Clay­ton Daniels, Mor­gan Gould, Moe­neeb Josephs, Ta­puwa Kap­ini, Mab­huti Khenyeza, Reneilwe Let­sholonyane, Jab­u­lani Maluleke, Paulus Masehe, Rooi Ma­hamutsa, Vuyo Mere, Teko Modise and Pa­trick Tignyemb all have in com­mon?

They are all well over 30 years old, but re­main more than rel­e­vant at their re­spec­tive clubs, with most still as influential on the field as they are off it. Ev­ery club, no mat­ter the league, needs at least one of these kinds of play­ers: one with loads of ex­pe­ri­ence who brings in lead­er­ship and a calm­ing in­flu­ence in the dress­ing room. Some clubs have more than one. Tsh­wane duo Mamelodi Sun­downs and Su­per­Sport United could field a full team of over 30s if they so wish. For all the noise that tends to be made about play­ers over the age of 30 be­ing “over the hill”, closer in­spec­tion re­veals that this is in fact the age group car­ry­ing the bur­den at many PSL clubs at present. De­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Sun­downs have 12 play­ers past the age of 30 who are still go­ing strong. Ugan­dan keeper De­nis Onyango is first-choice be­tween the sticks, with Zam­bian veteran Kennedy Mweene a more-than-able deputy. Wayne Arendse con­tin­ues to qui­etly mar­shal the de­fence along­side Brazil­ian Ri­cardo Nasci­mento; Anele Ng­con­gca is still an all-weather man while Te­bogo Langer­man is for­ever up for the chal­lenge at left-back. Hlom­pho Kekana gets the job done in mid­field and is ably as­sisted by Tiyani Mabunda and Oupa Many­isa while Antony Laf­for, Cuth­bert Mala­jila and Jeremy Brockie op­er­ate in at­tack. Not to be out­done by their neigh­bours, Su­per­Sport have a good num­ber of play­ers who have reached the three-decade mark in re­serve keeper Washington Arubi, de­fend­ers Richard Boateng, Clay­ton Daniels, Mor­gan Gould, Bon­gani Khu­malo, Siyabonga Nh­lapo and On­si­mor Bhasera, mid­field­ers Reneilwe Let­sholonyane, Dean Fur­man and Thuso Phala while Bradley Grob­ler and James Keene

“NO ONE IS SAY­ING ANY­THING ABOUT CRIS­TIANO RON­ALDO RE­TIR­ING, YET HE IS 33.”

are the vet­er­ans up­front. And have you seen how 36-year-old Jab­u­lani Maluleke con­tin­ues to de­liver pin­point passes at Polok­wane City? Bid­vest Wits’ Elias Pelembe is still as tricky as ever at 35, while 34-year-old goal­keeper Ta­puwa Kap­ini has em­braced the chal­lenge of mak­ing sure Highlands Park don’t con­cede too many. Rooi Ma­hamutsa is still as ro­bust at the back at 37 along with 35-year-old Paulus Masehe at Free State Stars, while a 38-year-old Moe­neeb Josephs re­mains as flex­i­ble as he was when he ar­rived in the PSL 21 years ago. Fel­low glove­man Pa­trick Tignyemb con­tin­ues to make a dif­fer­ence at Celtic de­spite be­ing 33. “Luck­ily the mind­set is slowly chang­ing and catch­ing up with the modernised gam ,” rea­sons 37-year-old Shu-Aib Wal­ters, who is

“IF YOU GO­ING TO JUDGE ME, THEN DO SO BASED ON WHAT IS HAP­PEN­ING ON THE PITCH.”

now at Ajax Cape Town. As al­ways, Wal­ters is bru­tal in giv­ing a prac­ti­cal and hon­est anal­y­sis. “Foot­ball is no longer all about en­durance, with more coaches chang­ing into the struc­ture of hav­ing shorter game plans where play­ers are now just 50 me­tres apart at most,” he starts. “There is no longer this foot­ball where you kick and then run with your wingers do­ing 13-14 kilo­me­tres per game. Nowa­days foot­ballers are do­ing eight to nine kilo­me­tres on av­er­age per game. A lot more older play­ers can han­dle it be­cause we have adapted to a more Euro­pean style of foot­ball where Xavi and [An­drea] Pirlo could all still play at the high­est level into their mid-30s be­cause what is de­manded of you is less run­ning, but quicker think­ing. “Quicker think­ing can also now help you in South Africa where it used to be all about the long ball with play­ers cov­er­ing longer dis­tances. Teams were look­ing at hav­ing play­ers do­ing 13-14 kilo­me­tres, but play­ers are not do­ing that any­more which ac­com­mo­dates for the older and wiser play­ers. That is why we now have a lot more older play­ers man­ag­ing and do­ing well, such as ‘Yeye’, Mor­gan, Moe­neeb and Teko. What has helped is that we are also now adapt­ing to the more re­cent trends, with pe­ri­odi­s­a­tion play­ing a role be­cause we now have fit­ness and con­di­tion­ing coaches who are a lot more knowl­edge­able.”

Judg­ing play­ers on age

De­spite many over the age of 30 still able to show­case their tal­ents at the high­est level, there has peren­ni­ally been a cul­ture of judg­ing play­ers based on age in South Africa, with Wal­ters shar­ing his thoughts as to how this oc­curred. “I think it was the men­tal­ity of our lo­cal coaches be­cause they de­manded man-toman mark­ing, which is no longer the case,” he rea­sons. “Cur­rent coaches have now caught up with the mod­ern trends which en­com­pass pe­ri­odi­s­a­tion. The older coaches were very naïve be­cause to them, get­ting fit was about run­ning up a thou­sand stairs, not know­ing the im­pact this had on the play­ers’ knees which is why there were so many long-term in­juries back then. The coaches nowa­days are be­com­ing more open- minded now and real­is­ing the need to have a bal­ance. “No one is say­ing any­thing about Cris­tiano Ron­aldo re­tir­ing, yet he is 33. It is all about knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing. I think the older coaches didn’t un­der­stand be­cause they didn’t have the knowl­edge. The older coaches who are still there like Pitso [ Mosi­mane] and Gavin [Hunt] now un­der­stand pe­ri­odi­s­a­tion and con­di­tion­ing be­cause they do their own cour­ses to un­der­stand it. Foot­ball al­ways evolves and f you don’t go with the times, then you will be left be­hind. Right now, I can put a start­ing ine-up of 33-year-olds and above that will com­pete with any team in the PSL, but five years ago you couldn’t do that. My friend Collins Mbesuma is still do­ing well in the First Di­vi­sion, so this per­cep­tion has ong-since gone out the win­dow. Teko is be­ing man­aged well at Cape Town City and can still go on for an­other year.” Fel­low goal­keeper Kap­ini also knows all too well about the ir­ri­ta­tion of be­ing judged based on age. The veteran keeper has kept de­fy­ing the odds and is so far en­joy­ing what might end up be­ing his best sea­son in the PSL de­spite be­ing 34. “This is­sue of dis­miss­ing play­ers based on age is not only con­fined to South Africa, but rather the Cosafa re­gion,” rea­sons the Highlands Park first-choice stop­per. “When you turn 30, there is im­me­di­ately

a ten­dency of say­ing you are no longer as ef­fec­tive as you used to be. Just to prove how wrong that mind­set is, Siphiwe Tsha­bal­ala got his move to Turkey just be­fore he turned 34 which shows in Europe they ap­pre­ci­ate your ma­tu­rity in foot­ball, whilst here we are only con­cerned about push­ing play­ers out based on age. Of course with age your speed de­creases, but your foot­ball in­tel­li­gence be­comes bet­ter. “What is im­por­tant is per­for­mance more than age. Ron­aldo is 33, but Ju­ven­tus paid mas­sive money to get him from Real Madrid be­cause they value his per­for­mance more than his age. Here in Africa all we ever make noise about is the age of play­ers and how long some­one has been play­ing. You will be told that play­ers you played with have now long-re­tired. It shouldn’t mat­ter that I was once team­mates with Willem Jack­son just like it shouldn’t be an is­sue that Itume­leng Khune played with Shaun Bartlett. In Africa we have peo­ple who are ob­sessed with push­ing play­ers down.” Kap­ini ex­plains how tech­nol­ogy is now be­ing used to mon­i­tor play­ers and their per­for­mances, which helps alert coaches and phys­i­cal trainers when cer­tain play­ers need rest. “Nowa­days there is the un­der­gar­ment GPS player-track­ing sys­tem used which gives de­tailed in­sight into in­di­vid­ual as­pects like heart rate and fa­tigue,” the for­mer Zim­babwe in­ter­na­tional says. “So there is no need to judge play­ers based on the naked eye or their age. With the use of such tech­nol­ogy you get to know when a player needs rest. It is amaz­ing how tech­nol­ogy has come into the game.”

‘Age is just a num­ber’

Vuyo Mere is a prime ex­am­ple of how play­ers are nei­ther per­ish­able nor have a spe­cific sell-by date. This is a man who played in the PSL as far back as the 2001/02 sea­son with Hellenic, and has of­ten been dis­missed due to the obsession with judg­ing play­ers based on age in­stead of per­for­mance. “In South African foot­ball many play­ers are forced to re­tire at an early age be­cause you are con­sid­ered old once you get past 30,” says the 34-year-old who is now with Bid­vest Wits. “Lit­tle con­sid­er­a­tion is given to what that par­tic­u­lar player is still bring­ing to the team and how he car­ries him­self. I started early and now I’m be­ing judged for hav­ing played with foot­ballers who have longsince re­tired. But age is just a num­ber for many of us who have played in the PSL for this long.” Mere ex­plains the ad­van­tage of be­ing an old head” in the game. “The ad­van­tage with play­ers who are over 30 now is we un­der­stand that our ca­reer can end just like that,” he says. “We un­der­stand how much we need to in­vest in our bod­ies sos that we last longer. With the younger guys, theyt can still mess around, not real­is­ing that neg­a­tive be­hav­iour will af­fect you in your line ofo duty. How you live your life af­fects your per­for­mance. We made mis­takes we don’t want the t younger ones to re­peat, but un­for­tu­nately some s of them are dis­mis­sive, so much so that when­ever w you talk to them, they think you are on o your way out of the game. “Play­ers are now be­ing given in­di­vid­ual at­ten­tion a in­stead of be­ing treated like a group the t way it was some 10 years ago. You don’t have h to wait to be spoon-fed on how to take t care of your­self. Here in South Africa we con­cen­trate less on what the player is do­ing. If you are go­ing to judge me, then do so based on what is hap­pen­ing on the pitch. The ex­pec­ta­tion in this coun­try is that play­ers shouldn’t last long. God blessed me to start at an early age and that shouldn’t mean I’m now too old to play and be re­garded as some­one who is tired. I will let peo­ple talk, but what matters is that Gavin Hunt knows what I can bring to the team. I will let my legs do the talk­ing.” Chippa United de­fender Thabo Nthethe also gets an­noyed with the ten­dency to write off play­ers based on age. His rea­son­ing is that Tsha­bal­ala’s move to Turk­ish Su­per Lig club BB Erzu­rum­spor at 33 should be a re­al­ity check to all, in­sist­ing that age doesn’t mat­ter as long as a player is still per­form­ing. “The ap­pre­ci­a­tion for a 34-year-old is thin in South Africa be­cause the mo­ment you reach 30, they start doubt­ing you,” the 34-year-old says. “I know a lot of play­ers who were forced into re­tire­ment just be­cause of the sen­ti­ments of peo­ple and all the neg­a­tiv­ity that was be­ing said about their ages. Some guys took what peo­ple were say­ing about them to heart, not aware that some of these peo­ple talk­ing were not right. I have also ob­vi­ously been told by some peo­ple that I was sup­posed to re­tire af­ter leav­ing Sun­downs, but why should I re­tire when I can still chase a striker and my body is not giv­ing me any sig­nal about not cop­ing? We have a ten­dency of push­ing out our play­ers so eas­ily just be­cause we think they are old. We seem to be a coun­try that en­joys push­ing ex­pe­ri­enced foot­ballers out of the game. “This obsession with age has to come to an end. The South African men­tal­ity is dis­ap­point­ing at times. Look at what hap­pened with Gian­luigi Buf­fon. PSG signed him at 40 and they are a team that is com­pet­ing in the Uefa Cham­pi­ons League. And didn’t ‘Shabba’ move abroad well af­ter 30?”

“THIS OBSESSION WITH AGE HAS TO COME TO AN END. THE SOUTH AFRICAN MEN­TAL­ITY IS DIS­AP­POINT­ING AT TIMES.”

Rooi Ma­hamutsa Vuyo Mere Mor­gan Gould

Teko Modise Jab­u­lani Maluleke Moe­neeb Josephs

Ta­puwa Kap­ini

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