Best-loved team sport is really about individuals

2011-02-26 00:00

FOR a game supposedly the most popular team sport, modern football really is all about the individual.

It is no better exemplified than the new depths plummeted by Katlego Mphela in trying to force a move from a club with whom he has a lucrative contract.

His strike to try to force the club’s hand proved pitiless in the end, but has managed to inflict serious damage on their title chances.

Mphela looks to have gotten away with treason, able to squirm his way back into the team because Sundowns are now desperate for his services as the results fail to go their way. As they have lost points and position in the title race, so too have Sundowns lost their principles.

Just weeks ago club president Patrice Motsepe said Mphela would never again play for his team, but now that they have lost ground in the title race, he is allowing the player to return.

If Motsepe were asked to defend his decision, he would surely say it is all about forgiveness and giving Mphela another chance.

But the reality is that Sundowns badly need Mphela right now and so are happy to go back on their word.

Mphela was straight back into the side on Saturday, coming on as an early substitute, even though Sundowns lost to Free State Stars.

His grievance is that Sundowns turned down an offer from an overseas club for his services after they had promised that if he did get an offer to go, they would let him depart.

He is not the first player to complain that Sundowns do not keep their word, but the manner of his protest, at such a crucial juncture of the season, served only to highlight how self-interest is the main motivation.

“Bugger the team, as long as I get my way,” is what Mphela was saying when he went on strike at a time Sundowns needed him most.

It is extraordinary that he will probably get away with not much more than lost wages.

Sundowns have promised disciplinary action, but let’s see if that becomes a reality.

Patently they are not a happy club, driven by egoistic strife and personal rivalries at all levels and now manifesting itself in poor results.

The impasse was broken last week by the intervention of national coach Pitso Mosimane. He stepped in as mediator to broker a peace deal between Mphela and Motsepe.

His motivation was not altruistic at all, of course.

Mosimane realises he needs Mphela to be fit and on form for the upcoming African Nations Cup qualifier against Egypt on March 26, a match that Mosimane must win if he is to have a fruitful career as Bafana Bafana coach.

He is the only one to come out of the whole Mphela affair with any dignity, but don’t be fooled about his motivation.

It is as self-serving as the rest.

Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and editorial director of Mzanzi Football.

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