2016-03-16 06:00

GENERALLY, the men in Black under UMgungundlovu football district are good and honest people. They do make mistakes occasionally, just like all of us. However, we also have rotten apples that are bringing football into disrepute. It is important that those in leadership positions protect the game from corrupt individuals.

It takes both a corrupt referee and club official to engage in unlawful actions. Football is not going to grow unless the bribery of referees is taken seriously in KZN. It is also interesting that local referees are not progressing to the national, continental and world levels. It is not possible if the focus is on taking bribes instead of improving skills.

A few referees have become a law unto themselves. Thanks God our students were not at the fields last Friday evening during the SAB league match. We would have observed a tragic situation due to greed for easy money. Players and coaches work hard preparing for matches only to be confronted by these situations. Where have you seen a 20-minute referee’s optional time in a match with few stoppages?

A number of our young players have been seriously injured since the laws of the game are not implemented. Once a referee has received money, he is obligated to win the match for the client. It is sad and disappointing.

Football officials should stop fighting for positions and start addressing these issues. The environment is not conducive to the development of the game. The football calendar year is chaotic, sometimes referees are not present for fixtures, facilities are in terrible state and there is no discipline from some of the clubs.

Currently, potential councillors are campaigning for municipal positions. Sometimes I just wonder what better life they are talking about when playing facilities are in such a mess. The few fields with grass are never cut, and field markings are not there in many of the fields under municipalities. What a shame considering that under apartheid we played in properly maintained soccer fields.

All these factors are crippling football in this province. We have become a province of cheats i.e. age cheating, referees that take bribes, players that are bribed by opposition to lose matches, teams that lose matches to help others win championships or avoid relegation. The list is endless. It will be very difficult for our best teams to shine nationally since weaker teams get to the national play-offs.

Football leaders and local government politicians and officials should attend to these problems. Football is losing many teenage boys and girls to drugs and alcohol. There are football fields where there are no toilets and water pipes. Matches are played under very hot conditions yet basic things like water taps are not there. Girls have to change in the open because there are no change rooms. It is unfortunate that these things happen in a country that prides itself on human rights.

South Africa is capable of doing better than this provided there is a political will.

Lastly, it is important to note that stopping good teams’ progress to high levels is easy. However, no one can ever stop individual players from those teams in reaching higher levels. Many young talented players could not help their teams’ progress to higher levels because of these problems. It is interesting that many, particularly from Pietermaritzburg, have tasted national and international success.

Unzima lo mthwalo.

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