Nelson Mandela sports day: Legends cry foul

2013-08-25 10:00

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The inaugural Nelson Mandela Sport and Culture Day at FNB Stadium was supposed to illustrate the Rainbow Nation’s unity, but the glaring absence of former Federation Professional League (FPL) players in the star-studded SA Legends XI showed just how divided we still are.

The Legends XI lost 2-0 to their Italian counterparts.

The South African Soccer Federation (SASF), which was formed in 1951 with its rigid policy of “no normal sport in an abnormal society”, spent decades fighting the evil system of apartheid.

They were not only responsible for pressuring the world governing body, Fifa, to finally implement a ban on football 25 years later, but also played a major role in unity talks which eventually paved the way for the re-admittance of the SA Football Association (Safa) on to the international stage in July 1992.

Yet, the very organisation that actually made football spectacular in the first place were left fuming, saddened and bewildered after being given the cold shoulder on such an auspicious occasion.

Former Safa official Don Mudaly, who is now chairperson of the SA Fed Soccer Legends in KwaZulu-Natal, said he is “disgusted” that none of his members were selected.

“We are very, very disturbed,” a peeved Mudaly told City Press this week.

“Personally, I’m pretty disgusted. That might sound a bit strong, but the fact is it’s totally, totally unacceptable that none of our ex-pros were considered.”

Mudaly added: “We have a number of them still active, playing in structured leagues who could certainly have added value to the game. It would have been appropriate to hand-pick former players from the various organisations.

“The SASF was at the forefront of unity in sport, particularly football, so it’s sad that people forget the contribution made by FPL players who played a sterling role in bringing about nonracialism. I cannot understand or accept why men such as Farouk Abrahams, Goona Padayachee, Duncan Crowie, Chris Fortuin and Keith America were left out.”

Mudaly, who thinks the organisers of last Saturday’s match “must hang their heads in shame due to total discrimination”, has gone even further by stating that he is prepared to put together a team of his ex-professionals to challenge the SA Legends XI.

“That’s not to boost our ego but to show that we played the game at the highest level and still have guys with skill and talent,” he said.

Former Mamelodi Sundowns, Orlando Pirates and Cape Town Spurs star Bernard “Dancing Shoes” Hartze is just as perturbed.

“Do they want to wish the other side away?” he asked.

“It’s sad to see what we’re going through after making the sacrifice to come together.

“The FPL players were the ones who stood 100% against the wrongdoings of the time.”

He added: “Using (Mlungisi) ‘Professor’ Ngubane and Jomo Sono was a health risk, they could have collapsed. Everybody was so slow because they were out of shape.

“I weigh 73kg, my waist line is 33, so that speaks for itself. I would have been quite comfortable playing?.?.?.?I think I’m still very fit.”

Buddha Mathathe, the president of the SA Masters and Legends Football Association, who together with former Bafana Bafana manager Screamer Tshabalala selected the SA Legends squad, has shown remorse and promised to include FPL ex-professionals in future matches.

“I understand the SA (Federation) Soccer Legends have the right to be upset,” Mathathe said.

“But the selection was a directive from the sports minister who said they wanted big names that would draw people into the stadium.

“My leadership is conscious, we don’t care if you’re black, white, Indian, coloured, male or female, as long as you’ve made a contribution to this game, going forward you will be included.”

That’s good news to the legendary Smiley Moosa who, at 61, claims to play like a 20-year-old. “Why are they discriminating against us?” he too asked. “It’s worse than the apartheid era, the opposite of what Nelson Mandela fought for.”

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