They look at us like criminals!
Goalscoring is a serious problem that has been afflicting South African football for a longer time than one can scream ‘ Laduuuuuma!’ Season after season, no sangoma has been able to cure this ill. That the joint Golden Boot winners for 2017/ 18 ( Percy Tau and Rodney Ramagalela) scored only 11 goals apiece and that, at the halfway mark of this campaign, the leading goalscorer is on seven goals, tells the whole sorry story. More worryingly, unlike during the days of the likes of Fani Madida, Raphael Chukwu and Lesley Manyathela, no one is raising his hand on a consistent basis in front of goal for the Big Three. Were the aforementioned sharpshooters simply a special breed or is there where current strikers are lacking? Pollen Ndlanya, who played for both Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, was famous for his goalscoring exploits and Soccer Laduma’s Beaver Nazo decided to tap into his wisdom and knowhow to better understand the current status quo. However, judging by the volcanic plumes that came out of the mouth of the man many have long come to know as ‘ Trompies’, he was in a mood of his own, culminating in this fascinating interview. Fasten your seatbelt, dear reader, Pollen Ndlanya is in the driving seat!
Beaver Nazo: Trompies, where are the goals? Together with the likes of Jerry Sikhosana, Daniel Mudau, Raphael Chukwu, Bunene Ngaduane, Mark Williams, the late Dennis Lota and others, you kept South African football fans happy with the kinds of goals you scored, but now, we seem to be on a downward spiral when it comes to scoring.
Pollen Ndlanya: You know, football is being politicised in this country now. Once you start politicizing football, then we will have a problem and things won’t go your way. I know that scoring goals has been a problem, but what has been done about that?
BN: Orlando Pirates took the bold step of hiring a finishing coach (Stephen Adam) at the beginning of this season. The move seems to be paying dividends, to a degree.
PN: Look, you cannot fool everyone. Money doesn’t buy success. It doesn’t mean because you have money, you know everything. You can have all the money in the world, but to be successful, you need to work with people. Look at Pirates bringing in the finishing coach from overseas – it’s a good thing and I don’t have a problem with that, but you cannot overlook the people who played for the club, the people who know the culture of the club inside out, people who have contributed to the success of the team. People like Jerry Sikhosana. They should have started at home and looked at the likes of Jerry. These guys are sitting at home and have no jobs, but they had to go and get an unknown guy overseas because he is white. It doesn’t make sense. They are undermining our own people locally. That is why our football will never go anywhere, because there’s this mentality that a white person knows better.
PN: For example, if a guy from the township is selling Hugo Boss perfume, people will say, “No, that is stolen or it’s fake”, but if a white guy stops the car and sells the same perfume, people will buy it because they look at his (skin) colour. We are undermining our legends. I don’t have a problem if they decide to hire someone from overseas, but don’t undermine the integrity of our own legends. That is why ngithi kuwe,
mngani wami (I’m saying to you, my friend), having money doesn’t make you a better person or someone who knows everything. The so-called bosses are killing our football. You need to work collectively with people. Barcelona hired Pep Guardiola and he was successful. They knew that the guy knows the culture of the club. They brought Louis Enrique after him and he was also successful because he is also a club legend, he knows the culture and everything about the club. You don’t just bring people because they are so-and-so’s nephew and they come from Europe, while you have someone who can do the job here. That’s what is happening here. They are politicizing football! BN: But some of the foreign guys come highly qualified and recommended, unlike some of our legends who come across as wanting to be handed things on a silver platter on the basis of having played for a certain club for a number of years…
PN: It’s a good thing that they have qualifications, but this is South African players’ mentalities that we are talking about here. You can come from Europe and have all the qualifications, but fail to deliver, like it is the case with some coaches. You need to be streetwise and understand the culture and the way the players live in the townships to be able to succeed in South Africa as a coach, whether you have or don’t have the qualifications. The important thing is to understand the mentality and background of the players. Look at how Steve Komphela did in his first season at Chiefs when he was working with Doctor Khumalo – they went into two cup finals, even though they unfortunately lost them. That was because they knew the players and culture of the team.
BN: How have you equipped yourself post your playing days?
PN: I have a SAFA Level One certificate and, when I have time, I will go for more courses. But can I tell you something… I spoke to Neil Tovey, who was my captain at Chiefs and now the Technical Director at SAFA, about getting me to help the national team on an assistant basis. Guess what he told me? “No, Pollen, you need a licence.” I told him I do have SAFA Level
One and then he changed (tack) and said I need Level Four. I said, “Ok, Neil.” The sad thing is that when we meet supporters, the first question they ask is, “Why don’t you go help at Chiefs or Bafana Bafana?” Little do they know how hard it is to be overlooked.
BN: Go on.
PN: Sometimes the reason these coaches don’t want the legends as assistants is that they worry about the fact that most of us are popular with these teams’ supporters, so they somewhat feel threatened and then end up getting someone they would control. A lot of these assistants are yes-men because they are protecting their jobs. This thing is a problem and I am not saying legends must not go and learn, but don’t close the door for them because you’re insecure! There are people like Jerry and Steve Lekoelea who are jobless and they played the game. They can help the youngsters.
BN: Is it really about ‘foreign v local’? For example, Benni McCarthy was a top-class finisher in his heyday, but we’ve seen him pulling his hair out over the numerous goalscoring opportunities that his strikers squander at times, even famously saying one time that his grandmother could do better. Yet he is a local!
PN: I’ve never had a problem with foreign coaches, but they have to deliver. Benni has already won a trophy, meaning that he has won the hearts of his players. They all want to win for him and the club. It is never about where you come from, but what you do when given an opportunity. I still believe that our legends have to be given a chance. I was coached by the late Jeff Butler, whose credentials as a coach people were questioning, but he succeeded. There are coaches, whose names I cannot mention, who have come here highly recommended with loads of qualifications, yet they failed to deliver. What are you going to say about that? I say give our legends a chance!
PN: Let me tell you this… you know why our football is not going forward? It’s because of two things: politics and recycling of coaches. For example, Black Leopards will fire a coach and then, three days later, that coach will be coaching Chippa United. Tell me, when are we going to have new and fresh ideas in the league? Bring in the legends. Give them a chance so that we can have fresh ideas because I can tell you now, this recycling is what makes our league to be at a standstill point.
BN: Talking about recycling, Chiefs have just brought back Ernst Middendorp…
PN: (Cuts in) Beaver, this is what I’m talking about here! I don’t have a problem with Middendorp, but when will others be given a chance? I am happy for Shaun Bartlett, but again, he has been a head coach before, so why not give him the head-coaching job? He is a young coach with fresh ideas, exactly what our football needs right now. We have young coaches who have bright ideas, like Dan Malesela, and there are those experienced coaches like Pitso Mosimane who are doing well. Use them. Give the Manqoba Mngqithis a coaching job. Legends must come on board as assistants. Why must we go for overseas coaches when we have these coaches? We always do this recycling because, for example, we say, “Oh, this is Steve Komphela, he coached Chiefs, so let’s get him”, instead of trying to get someone new with fresh ideas. I believe I can do the job as an assistant coach or as a forwards coach because I have enough experience, but we are ignored. I am not saying Middendorp will not do the job – no, he might change the club’s fortunes, but we need new ideas. BN: What are your views on the Soweto Derby these days? PN: We don’t really care about the derby anymore. We have a league in Tembisa where we play every Sunday and we’re still scoring goals there. We don’t even watch the derby sometimes. Remember scoring goals is an art. It’s a skill. There are a lot of us who scored goals for these teams, so why can’t they call me and say, “Hey, Pollen, we know you used to bang in the goals. Come help these young boys. Show them how it’s done.” But, no, we are not in the picture! We made the PSL what it is today. In other countries, like England, once you retire they give you a job, where they’ll start you in development. You don’t have to go and beg for a job. The club bosses that think they know football are the ones that kill our football. An example is that why can’t we, as legends, get VIP tickets to watch the derby? You watch the derby and you see beautiful girls busy on WhatsApp sitting in the VIP area. They don’t even care what’s happening on the field. They are not watching!
BN: You’re not the first to raise that point.
PN: The last time I went to watch the derby, I went with the late Shakes Kungwane and Teenage Dladla. We were guests on invitation. The security didn’t want to open for us. They stopped us and asked us, “Where are the tickets?” We told them that we were invited and so we didn’t have tickets, and they told us we couldn’t get in. The supporters came and told them, “Hey, these are legends that made the PSL, so open for them.” They opened for me and Shakes, but didn’t want to open for Teenage. We told them that if they wouldn’t allow him in, then we wouldn’t go in either, and that’s when they opened for him. The ladies were passing us, going in and looking at us as if we were criminals. That is why we are bitter. But I really do not care. The message that I have for them is that in life you can never fool anyone. Look at the benches of these clubs, see who is there and you ask yourself why are we not getting the chance so that we can fail if we fail?
BN: For the benefit of our readers who may not be in the know, what are you currently doing and how do you get by?
PN: Well, I am doing well and I don’t have financial problems. I have a company that supplies hospitals with cleaning material and other stuff. I am also involved in schools programmes where we identify talent at schools in Ekurhuleni. I also have Pollen Ndlanya Sports Development, where I am developing football in schools – not a lot of people know about this because I am doing it behind the scenes. I will never be lost to the game.
BN: Looking at all you’ve spoken about and all you’ve contributed to local football, do you have any regrets?
PN: I have played football at the highest level. I played in Turkey, I played for the two biggest clubs in South Africa, Chiefs and Pirates, and I have won trophies too. I won Footballer of the Season and Top Goalscorer in 1998, and I also played for Bafana Bafana in the 1997 FIFA Confederations Cup. I do not have any regrets, none whatsoever.
BN: Trompies, thank you for your time and we value the contribution you’ve made to South African football.
PN: No problem, my friend. Thanks to you too.
“Don’t close the door for them because you’re insecure!” “We don’t really care about the derby anymore.”
Facebook l Pollen Ndlanya Instagram l @ndlanyapollen