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Violence checks football


The present atmosphere reminds one of the bad old days when South Africa used to be shunned like the plague for matters that had nothing to do with football

Neville's eye

Upright South Africans of all stripes are walking with their heads bowed from the guilt burden of being seen as mean-spirited football-playing neighbours who at the slightest provocation take out their frustration on fellow poor continentals.

The South African Football Association this past fortnight dipped its toes in unfamiliar waters where it was called upon to sort out social issues in its backyard before it could kick a soccer ball in the spirit of good neighbourliness.

The present atmosphere reminds one of the bad old days when South Africa used to be shunned like the plague for matters that had nothing to do with football. It’s a shame that we are now being lumped in the same box as the past regimes of years gone by.

But then who is to say we do not deserve that kind of treatment as an urgent and immediate cure for our ingratitude, arrogance and simple violent nature. Naturally, the last straw would be for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to shun us totally and advise Fifa to ban us for our misdeeds.

It is perhaps only then that the sporadic violence against foreigners will cease as we feel the pinch of a full-scale football sports boycott and we witness the many missed chances at which the national team will be refused the right to play normal sports.

This weekly communique adds its weight to the condemnation of unwarranted physical attacks on persons from across our borders who are here on our doorstep for mainly economic reasons.

It took a long-time friend and stalwart of the struggle of anti-oppression and racism such as Zambia to draw our collective attention to the evil deeds being carried out by local rascals, criminals and small-minded bigots on fellow residents of the continent.

The central issues that drive the social uproar by locals and the general anti-foreigner sentiments are beyond the scope of this carrier, safe to say that it has exposed us as miserly dimwits who pay half- to no allegiance to our common home.

Safa and Premier Soccer League club coaches moved with speed to distance themselves from the unruliness caused by their supposed club supporters just a stone’s throw from the venue in Gauteng where they announced their disapproval of the things happening outside.

What happened immediately after Zambia turned us down is perhaps an indication of how we have separated from our long-time continental allies. We seem not to be aware of our immediate environment. We moved on to inviting the very next team available without pausing to take in our predicament.

The real shock and pain of being rejected so roundly set in after Madagascar decided we weren’t “clean” enough to play ball with. It takes a simple gesture from a most unlikely source such as football to bring home to us how connected we are and how much we need each other.

Newly-booked national team coach Molefi Ntseki is literally twiddling his thumbs at this curveball thrown in his direction by the unexpected social upheaval. We have put off assessing Ntseki on his first major job for his country.

Ntseki himself is upset and properly embarrassed at what we are doing as a country to foreigners. His part is especially tricky as he has by way of the nature of his new job, to rely on exactly foreign teams to test both his skills and that of his squad.

Hopefully, we shall get that opportunity sooner rather than later to assess Safa’s choice of national coach. For now, it is best that we try to mend fences with our immediate and distant neighbours.