Silencing the boo brigade

2011-04-02 18:43

They all have one thing in common: they all played for ­Jomo Cosmos, they all ­campaigned abroad and most interestingly, they were all ­subjected to the boo brigade while turning out for Bafana Bafana.

Philemon Masinga, Augustine Makalakalane, Teboho ­Mokoena and Nkosinathi ­Nhleko have all been at the ­receiving end of booing from supporters.

But they managed to turn from villains to heroes as they let their feet do the talking on the field of play.

Katlego Mphela, another former Cosmos player, became the latest to go through the same unpalatable experience last weekend before silencing his ­critics with a last-minute strike that gave Bafana an all-important 1-0 victory over Egypt.

Makalakalane and Masinga concurred that it was easy to turn the boo-boys into your fans by keeping your feet ­firmly on the ground and doing the right thing.

Makalakalane said when a section of the Bafana fans turned against him during the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations, he applied the adage: when life throws lemons at you, turn them into lemonade.

He was yelled at by the crowd each time he touched the ball during the tournament. But the former Switzerland-based midfielder never allowed the booing to get him down.

Instead, he took the booing as a sign that the fans expected more from him and worked even harder on his game.

“For me it means they know what you are capable of doing and you are not giving it to them. As the paying customers, they think they are always right, so you must go back to the drawing board and come back a better player ­rather than feeling ashamed of yourself,” said Makalakalane, known as mthakathi – the wizard – during his playing days.

However, he said it was sometimes difficult to ­understand what the fans ­wanted.

But he said through the support of his team-mates and family members, he managed to come through unscathed.
He admitted though that the thought of quitting did cross his mind.

“You need to be level-headed and not lose your focus. The only way to beat these people is to keep your balance and composure.”

He said players always had a chance of bouncing back.

“If you are not strong enough you won’t make it. You need to be mentally strong and just take it on the chin.”

Masinga, whose goal against Congo Brazzaville in 1997 ­secured South Africa its first berth at the World Cup in France in 1998, said it was important for Safa to address this issue and act immediately.

He said at one stage the fans booed him even before kick-off but through the support of coach Clive Barker and his team-mates, he managed to weather the storm and silence his detractors.

But he admitted it was not easy as sometimes it affected his performance.

“Sometimes you ask yourself whether it was worth it ­because deep down you know you did nothing wrong. It took its toll on me as I was not only playing against the opposition but also my own supporters. But I told myself they were not all South Africans but a small fraction of the supporters and they would not distract me, and that spurred me on,” Masinga said.

Mokoena, who also had a love-hate relationship with the supporters, endeared himself to the hearts of South Africans by scoring an equaliser against Paraguay at the 2002 World Cup in South ­Korea and Japan.

Hopefully, Mphela’s goal against Egypt will earn him ­respect from the fans who were booing him last week.

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