Pressing Issues: Youngsters, play from the heart

2012-06-30 19:40

Italy and Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli is mostly in the news for the wrong reasons.

Roberto Mancini, his compatriot and coach at the English Premiership champions, Manchester City, even suggested that the
22-year-old player should get married as this might be a way to tone down his wayward behaviour.

But the player’s ability and finesse on the field are beyond ­reproach. Save for the insulting cartoon in the Italian daily Gazzetta dello Sportdepicting him as King Kong, the temperamental marksman made a very profound statement this week.

Explaining why he no longer celebrates wildly when scoring a goal (this was before he took off his shirt in the semifinal against Germany on Thursday night), the player said he sees no need for that as he is just doing his job (see full quote in the earpiece on the right-hand top of this page).

This is the kind of attitude one wishes many players would adopt. While football started as a recreational exercise, it has recently b­ecome a profession.

It has recently become a game worth billions of moolah but attitude is still key and professional players must know that they are paid to deliver.

The effort they put in must match the rewards.

But once money becomes the paramount focal point and a means to an end, it raises the age-old question: Is money a means to an end or the end itself?

And this usually spells the end of a player’s career.

Money can’t be everything.

Young players should take heed of what Orlando Pirates chairperson Irvin Khoza said in May last year when talking about his club’s skipper, Lucky Lekgwathi.

“The main downfall of the current crop of players is their ‘show me the money attitude’. Money should be the result and not the object. All ­players who adopt the money-first attitude have shortlived careers. If you give good results, there will always be rewards.”

Taken seriously, these wise words from the Iron Duke of South African football can propel many a young player to dizzy heights. It pays to be passionate about what you do.

Once you lose the passion, you should quit and look for something else that you are passionate about.

Another South African soccer great, Jomo Sono, once said: “If you are not passionate and have no ambition, you don’t have anything to live for.”

So instead of focusing on the rewards, young players should concentrate on giving their best effort.

Yes, football’s history is littered with stories of soccer bosses and clubs exploiting young players.

However, if you put your God-given talent to its best use, rewards will automatically follow.

What’s more, you will also lead a peaceful life and sleep soundly at night knowing you have given your best, unlike if you do shoddy work and expect to be paid handsomely.

Surely your conscience would bother you – it would be tantamount to stealing, not only from the club but from those who pay their
hard-earned money to be entertained.

» smseleku@citypress.co.za 

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