Absa Premiership

Opinion: Being a Bhakaniya is not a choice

Johannesburg - It’s a few days after we suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of SuperSport United in a cup final. They demolished us 4-1.

The loss had many fellow Bhakaniyas questioning whether the slogan “once a Pirate, always a Pirate” is still applicable. It is not the loss itself that made them question their association with the skull and crossbones of Orlando – it is how we lost that made them lose hope, they said.

Since the loss, I have been speaking to many Bhakaniyas who, like me, cannot imagine themselves outside Orlando Pirates. It is this supporter that I would like to address myself to, because being a Pirate is not a choice, it is life. We are one with Orlando Pirates Football Club. It is who we are.

Utter disrespect

I have been trying to understand the reasons we have been lacklustre this entire season, even when we changed coaches. The loss to SuperSport in the Nedbank Cup final is forcing us to have a conversation we have been avoiding as stakeholders. It is a conversation about the players we have been recruiting, the scouts and the management of the team. I need to declare at this stage that I do not think we have a coaching problem. Though we might have a problem with people trying to coach the coach.

I will start with the players, because it is them who are the public ambassadors of the team – they wear the Pirates badge every time they trot onto a soccer field.

In the past few seasons, there have been reports of unbecoming behaviour from our players, some of which borders on utter disrespect for the badge. Every time these reports emerge, the players are defended by their “internal agents”. I have sometimes doubted these reports, dismissing them as the work of our opponents trying to destabilise our team. But after having seen first-hand what some of our players get up to, my view on this matter has changed completely.

In the lead-up to Saturday’s Nedbank Cup final, there were some players who were not part of the match day squad that I happened to be sharing a hotel with in Durban. They arrived on Thursday, and partied every night in their Pirates tracksuits and vests. I even had someone ask me in the morning if they were players or just supporters. When I confirmed they were players, the person was shocked.

I was not completely bothered by the partying on Thursday, it is the partying on Saturday that really got to me. I lost my appetite completely because I never imagined that I would witness our players disrespecting the badge in that manner.

After the loss, I saw lots of hurt Pirates fans, many of whom had travelled long distances to support the team at Moses Mabhida. Some were even driven to tears.

Score with girls

Still hurting a few hours after the game, I went back to the hotel. What I saw shattered me. The Pirates players were continuing with their partying with girls. This after the team lost 4-1. There was no sense of shame at all. I guess they did not care that supporters were returning to Gauteng, Mpumalanga, the Free State and other parts of the country deeply hurt. All they wanted was to continue partying.

I guess they see themselves only as Pirates employees and not one with the club.

If they were one with the club, they would have behaved differently. Gone are the days when players would give their all for the team and its supporters. We now have players who only care about social media and using the club’s badge to score with girls.

As for management, three men are directly responsible for the state of the club. They are chair Irvin Khoza, Screamer Tshabalala and Floyd Mbele. Khoza has given too much power to Tshabalala and Mbele. Even when there are reports of interference with the coach’s duties, he has done little and allows them to do as they wish.

One has to look at the number of players we buy at the start of a season only to sell or lend them out at the end of the same season.

Something needs to change, and now. It starts with the replacement of Tshabalala and Mbele with capable people who will not interfere with the coach.

Personally, I would welcome the return of Senzo Mazingisa (now with Platinum Stars) to the team.

Gana is DA spokesperson on cooperative governance and traditional affairs/human settlements in the Gauteng provincial legislature

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