Orlando Pirates have been inundated with calls from sympathisers who have offered to help the Buccaneers adjust to life after the sudden death of goalkeeper/captain Senzo Meyiwa.
From clinical psychologists to churches and ordinary citizens, everyone has offered their time and expertise to the club to help with the healing process in the aftermath of Meyiwa’s killing.
The club’s administrative manager, Floyd Mbele, told City Press this week that Meyiwa’s tragic death had not only affected the players, but the rest of the staff as well.
“We were offered the services of clinical psychologists, who are working with the players every day,” said Mbele, adding that “many people, including the Rhema Church, had offered to help”.
“The psychologists are conducting group and individual sessions, and are looking at how everyone is responding. They will compile a full report that will give us a clear picture of the situation.”
He said the process would continue until everyone had come to terms with the loss.
Mbele said the psychologists were also giving the club assistance with learning how to try to move away from the concept of playing in memory of Meyiwa to find closure.
In fact, former Pirates captain Jimmy Tau warned that “sometimes to play in memory of the player can be too emotional”.
“It can lead to players losing the plot because of emotions,” said the now retired defender.
He was hard-hit by the passing of former Bucs team-mate Lesley Manyathela, who died in a car accident in August 2003.
“It was difficult, especially because of the close relationship we had with Lesley. The late Zodwa Khoza [then brand manager] played a huge role in helping us to make peace and accept the loss. We received counselling from psychologists and pastors. But in the end, time is the healer of most pain.”
Mbele said “up to four psychologists” were working on the players during the team’s training sessions.
The club has kept the players off the radar for most of the week until defender Ayanda Gcaba had the first interaction with the media on Thursday.
Gcaba represented the club at their Telkom Knockout semifinal prematch conference at the PSL offices in the middle of the week.
“It has been a heavy week. Some guys are okay and some are not. We are just pushing hard to be okay for the game [against SuperSport United last night]. Brighton [Mhlongo] was devastated,” said Gcaba.
Coping with the loss of team-mates
Four players – Koketso Takalo, Robert Mphuti, Moeketsi Nthete and Silvester Mpaketsane – died in a road accident that also left midfielder Kopano Sekgobela confined to a wheelchair.
Captain and regular goalkeeper at the time of the tragedy Makweni Mayala said: “We were completely traumatised, but after rehabilitation and counselling, as well as two months of mourning the passing of our colleagues, the spirit was back again.”
Mozambique international defender Fernando Matola was burnt beyond recognition, along with his wife and two children, after a car accident in September 2007.
Then brand manager of the club Tshifhiwa “Chief” Thidiela said: “My dad [David Thidiela] runs a church, so we have a group of pastors at the club.
“They counselled the players and took them to different churches on Sundays. But the loss of Matola, who was our captain at the time, impacted negatively on the team. We lost four games in a row after burying him and this contributed to our relegation.”
Usuthu lost two players – striker Siyabonga “Benni” Mkhwanazi and defender Jan Silo – between 2008 and 2009.
Spokesperson Philani Mabaso said: “We brought in psychologists and pastors, but it took some time before the players were healed. Losing a player, especially Mkhwanazi and Silo, who were our regulars at the time, hit us hard and the
negative results showed on the pitch.”
Gift Leremi died in a car crash in September 2007.
Close friend and former team-mate Lebohang “Cheeseboy” Mokoena said: “I lost Gift in 2007 and my mother in 2008. It was the most difficult period in my life, and I was not active for the whole of 2008. I never really received counselling, but the family support helped with getting closure and making peace with the situation in the end.”