Pressing Issues: Bafana may once again be ‘like lambs to the slaughter’

2014-03-02 10:00

Close to 20 years down the line, Clive Barker still greets me by saying “like lambs to the slaughter”.

This was a headline to one of the stories I penned as a preview of a Bafana match in 1995 when Barker was coach.

I can’t even remember whether they were slain in that game or not.

My mind is also a bit foggy on what my response was when he confronted me at the time.

Chances are I sold him that feeble and tired line from junior reporters that I was not to blame, instead it was the subeditor who had come with that headline.

You see, subeditors are those hidden characters in journalism who do their jobs quietly behind the scenes.

Former newspaper editor Thabo Leshilo referred to them as “a special breed of person”, saying they were “supermen and women who need to have inexhaustible patience to put up with the thankless job of cleaning the mess left by sloppy reporters – sometimes long after the latter has gone home and switched off their cellphones”.

Erstwhile colleague George Starita, in a satirical piece before departing from City Press, wrote: “Behind the scenes at every newspaper and printed publication, unknown to readers, are the subeditors. They’re not deputy editors, as some think: they’re wordsmiths, working at correcting – and mutilating, in the words of journalists – what others have tried to write.”

So, where would newspapers be without dear subeditors? Doomed!

But to date, they’re still used as scapegoats simply because not too many people know them or about them.

But I digress.?I revisited Barker’s anecdote because I have nuggets of wisdom to share with incumbent Bafana coach Gordon Igesund.

(As a matter of coincidence – a concept to which the mafia doesn’t subscribe –?Igesund and Barker are my homeboys. I couldn’t resist this chance at name-dropping #HeSaysChuckling.)

And this is not meant to get dear Igesund and his charges quivering in their fancy boots.

I couldn’t help but observe that the team of 19 players announced by Brazil for Wednesday night’s friendly match have 16 European-based players and only three who play locally (goalkeeper Jefferson, Fred and Jô).

The three are no slouches, either. In fact, no Brazilian player can be dubbed a slouch.

Well, Igesund’s team also boasts – please note I am using the word ‘boasts’ guardedly – 10 European-based players.

But the question is: which clubs do they play for?

While perusing the Brazilian line-up, one sees clubs such as Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain – all who are in the Champions League.

Igesund’s overseas brigade is supplied by the likes of Ajax Amsterdam (Champions League, I hear you say), Doncaster Rovers (I’m sure you’ve heard of them), FC Rostov, Racing Genk, Crystal Palace, Lech Poznan, KV Oostende, Lokeren FC and Bournemouth FC.

I’m not sure whether such names will send cold shivers down the spines of Luiz Felipe Scolari and his charges such as Neymar, Dani Alves, Fernandinho, Marcelo, Ramires, Willian, David Luiz, Rafinha and Paulinho.

To quote a line from Scottish actor Sean Connery when he played the character of Jim Malone in the movie The Untouchables and asked Frank Nitti (played by Billy Drago): “What kind of a fool brings a knife to a gunfight?”

It does indeed seem like a matter of bringing a knife to a gunfight and as the clever subeditor – who I suspect my have been the witty Cyril McAravey – put it: “Like lambs to the slaughter.”

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