No longer ‘the perfect 10’

2011-03-19 20:09

A quick glance at the players with PSL clubs who don the famous number 10 jersey reveals the sorry state of what was once the most coveted honour.

Those who made this magic jersey famous will not be happy that it is becoming insignificant because any Tom, Dick and Harry can wear it nowadays.

Not so long ago, not every player could don the number. It was reserved for the vastly gifted and it was every player’s dream to wear it.

But the magic number no longer carries the weight it used to during the playing days of Edison Arantes do Nascimento of Brazil, popularly known as ­Pele and arguably the world’s greatest player, Diego Maradona of ­Argentina, France’s maestro Zinedine ­Zidane, Johan ­Cruyff, Ruud ­Gullit (both ­Netherlands), Italians Roberto Baggio and Alessandro del Piero, and our own ­Jomo “Troublemaker” Sono.

The symbol has lost so much of its meaning that even ­defenders now display it, like France international William Galas, who wore it when he was still at English premiership side Arsenal. Those given the chance to put it on in the Absa Premiership have not lived up to expectations or done justice to it, with most of them being mere bench-warmers.

Some clubs have even gone to the extent of retiring the number for historical reasons.

Platinum Stars coach Owen da Gama said that historically the number was perceived as being for icons or star players.

“During my time everyone wanted the number because of its significance, but maybe our current players are scared of it.

I have always liked number 8 and I tried to popularise it as I wore it at all the clubs I played for,” Da Gama said.

Coach Steve Komphela said he did not know why nobody in Free State Stars was wearing the magic number, but he said traditionally there was a special attachment to it.

AmaZulu spokesperson ­Philani Mabaso said since ­Nhlanhla Zwane’s departure in January, nobody wanted the number.

Traditionally, he said, the jersey was reserved for exceptional players who could change the course of a game with a stroke of genius.

“If you wear the number, expectations become too high and maybe that is the reason why our players are frightened of it, since it comes with pressure,” Mabaso said.

Five PSL clubs – Orlando ­Pirates, Platinum Stars, ­AmaZulu, Free State Stars and Golden Arrows – have no player with that number.

Of the other 11 players in the PSL who wear it, only four are regulars at their clubs.

Former Bafana Bafana strikers Sibusiso Zuma and Siyabonga Nomvethe have done justice to the number since joining Vasco da Gama and Moroka Swallows respectively.

The 35-year-old Zuma has scored seven goals since joining the Cape rookies at the ­beginning of the season, while Nomvethe’s goal this week ­ended Bloemfontein Celtic’s unbeaten home run in the league this season.

Anthony Laffor of SuperSport United and Ajax Cape Town’s marauding winger, Sameehg Doutie, have also fared better this season.

The same cannot be said of Kaizer Chiefs’ Mthokozisi Yende, Bloemfontein Celtic’s Clifford Mulenga or Bidvest Wits’s David de Oliveira, who are regular bench-warmers.

Maritzburg United’s Fadlu Davids has also lost the sting that previously made him one of the PSL’s best strikers.

Santos’s Malawian midfielder, Tawonga Chimodzi, has not featured in many Santos games this season, and he played only twice last season.

Manqoba Ngwenya, whose career has been plagued by injuries, has not impressed since he joined Mpumalanga Black ­Aces during the open window period in January.

Although sometimes showing the spark that made him one of the hottest properties in SA football, Papi Zothwane of Mamelodi Sundowns has not been the same since recovering from a knee injury.

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