WHEN renowned journalist Peter Malherbe joined the Sunday Times in the early 80′s – I can safely say before I was even born – he joined an elite group of Dale College old boys that ruled its newsroom.
Then editor Tertius Myburgh and managing editor Joe Sutton were the people in charge of this great establishment. Sutton – as he wrote in the PE Herald earlier this year and I’m purely rehashing his words here – was the old Dalian that had a profound influence on Peter.
Sutton died at the age of 85, in February this year.
Peter wrote after his mentor’s passing:
While the editor is responsible for the political stance of the newspaper and the overall direction it takes, it is the managing editor who is often in charge of the day-to-day running of the paper and putting it all together.
In Joe you got what you saw. He was a kind, friendly man, but determined and dedicated to a fault. If he wanted a particular story that Sunday, he would continue to goad and push reporters and news editors until it landed on his desk. He believed in the Sunday Times and it was during his watch that the newspaper published some of its more memorable stories.
Ironically, I was to follow in his footsteps and become managing editor of the newspaper many years later. One of the things that I tried to emulate was his calm, unflappable disposition – a real challenge on a big newspaper like the Sunday Times. When the going got tough I would think of Joe and his simple approach to most issues.
Peter went on to become exactly what he wanted to be. A journalist that influenced thought and influenced the times he was living in and when that hat fulfilled him, he moved to Thailand, to satisfy his insatiable appetite for travel and experiencing new things.
Peter was at the Durban office this week, apparently to give the bureau a pep talk, give them insight, enthuse them or spy on them or whatever.
But Peter was candid about the person that was the greatest influence in his life and his career. The person that gave him his first shot in the paper, the one that shaped his journalistic mind and I’m sure – although I was not there – the person that stood up for him when many in the newsroom would have doubted his ability.
Being a journalist is tough. You need to know enough about everything to write about it, while you beg for insight from the experts of every available field. Then you have to compile that information so that Joe Khumalo down the street may also gain a bit of understanding.
And, Lord forbid, please don’t bore Khumalo to death, he has a wife and two kids to provide for.
We all need a Joe Sutton in our lives.
The person that believes in you, not because they are your relative or they think you’ll pay them back one day. No.
That person who will say: “Kid go to Mauritius, find out who has been running the housing scam that has scavenged millions from South Africans”, even though you might not have a contact in Mauritius or even a passport.
The point is, they trusted you to do the job, and you delivered because you dare not let your mentor down. You’d die for him, if he sent you the brief. And he will trust you with even bigger assignments because you didn’t let him down the last time and on the cycle goes.
Rugby has plenty “Suttons” in the changing rooms.
These Suttons made sure that the likes of Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Pat Lambie and Siya Kolisi got their first shots at an early age. And guess what, they didn’t let their Suttons down.
They put their under-developed young bodies on the line, both appeasing the game plan and managing to add a bit of their flair and unique characteristics to their game.
I often wonder and worry about South African sport’s black sheep: soccer.
Soccer in South Africa is loved and enjoyed by many. Those who play it, do their best to make a decent spectacle out of it.
But I often worry that there aren’t enough Suttons in soccer. Guys that are there to mentor, groom and get the best from the player, not just on the field of play but off it.
Often budding soccer players need these mentors in their personal lives too, to get them away from the evils that come with fame and fortune. The good ol’ women and booze.
I was inspired to write this by two things (other than my yearning for the late Sutton): The cover of this month’s Kickoff magazine, which features renowned bad boys Jabu Pule and Steve Lekoelea; and Thulani “Tyson” Hlatshwayo’s impressive performances at the Cosafa Cup for Gordon Igesund’s watered down Bafana squad.
We all know about the famous bad boys so I’m going to head straight to Tyson.
Now, although I’m a firm believer that no single player should ever be praised in a losing cause (you win as a team, you lose as a team) the Ajax defender did his best to put up his hand for future selection. If the team loses, that means all the components that were designed to make it win failed, whether via penalty shoot-out or 90 minutes.
When a car crashes and kills everyone on board because the brakes failed, no one cares that the rear view mirror was positioned correctly. The same applies in team sports.
I feel like I’ve been going on forever. But the point is, Hlatshwayo (23) has entered the Bafana newsroom, it is really up to Gordon Igesund to decide whether he will be Hlatshwayo’s Sutton and include him in the final World Cup qualifier against Botswana or do the other thing that the editors we don’t know did, that Peter didn’t write about.
PITSO Mosimane has begged for understanding from Mamelodi Sundowns supporters and more time to complete the multimillionaire club’s renaissance.
The coach wants to change the way things have been done in the past and key to his grand plans is a new youth policy – something that has been foreign to cash kings Sundowns. There will be no more record-shattering salaries or over-inflated signing fees and no more dubious unlimited shopping sprees.
This comes a week after Mosimane revealed plans of a major clean-out at the club in the off-season, which has put players under pressure to justify their presence at Chloorkop.
“I’ve only been in here for four months … I’ll get it right, give me time,” said Mosimane, who took over from temperamental Dutchman Johan Neeskens last year.
“When I took over every team was above us [on the log] and we’ve moved away [from the drop zone] a little bit and got a bit of a breather. I haven’t bought a player; these are the same players I found here.
“I don’t want to go the same way that it has been for the last five years – buying players not knowing why you’re buying them.
“We are going for younger, hungrier players and paying less wages. We are changing the team but we ask for Sundowns people to understand our change of model.”
The former Bafana Bafana coach says he wants to give every player a chance to prove himself but, as seen in the 0-0 draw with AmaZulu in Durban on Sunday, that move comes at the cost of league points.
“I am not rotating to give players a rest,” Mosimane said. “I have to give a chance to the guys who haven’t had a chance to play, so that I can assess them at the end of the season. You can’t give assessment when you don’t give people a chance.
“Unfortunately, I’m doing it at the expense of the team, whereas we need results, we need points and we need to be consistent. Sundowns supporters want a win and they want it now.”
It is degrading for a club with lofty ambitions like Sundowns to lower their targets to a mere place in the top eight and for the them to be struggling to achieve this task is even more demeaning.
But such is the consequence of multiple coach changes over the years, failure to implement proper youth structures and using money as a solution to every problem.
“We are going through a slump and you must understand that it happens to all teams,” Mosimane explained.
“Don’t forget it has taken Kaizer Chiefs seven years and they have not yet won the league. But when everybody writes, they write about Mamelodi Sundowns being big spenders and without a trophy in the cabinet for the last five years. They are right but it’s a process.
“Yes I still see us making it into the top eight because not many people ahead of us are winning, some of them are losing. There are less points to play for but … there is still an opportunity, we’re only five points away from the top eight. Let’s see what happens.”
I had a laughing – then coughing – fit when fellow scribe and soccer analyst Tso joked that Mamelodi Sundowns were “Dikhothane tsa Pitori”.
Now if you have just landed from Mars, let me explain: Izikhothane is a group of youths practising a vile trend of buying expensive material – clothes, food, anything you can think of- mostly with money given to them by their parents and they go about destroying it as if it were worthless. The other day they were tearing R100 bank notes for kicks.
Well, the Motsepe Foundation (I guess not content with spending millions on under-performing players) hosted a concert in East London a day after Sundowns’ 1-0 Telkom Knockout final defeat to Bloemfontein Celtic. Now I’m sure that the concert was organised months before the final but why does it appear like the Sundowns family are more adept at organising lavish parties [insert Miss Mamelodi Sundowns pageant here] than they are getting the bloody team to play good football?
I understand the need to grow the brand but what good will it do if the team is 15th on the Absa Premiership log?
Coach Johan Neeskens has put Elias Pelembe, who is rumoured to be among the highest earners in the league at over R300,000 a month, in the stands. If that’s not Izikhothane behaviour, I really don’t know what is.
Neeskens is reviled by the Sundowns fans. Though they’ve suspended their violent streak, thank God, they have no say in the club anymore. They are expected to buy their match tickets, go to the stadium, sit down and shut the f**k up – and then watch this bunch soiling the Sundowns jersey once worn by Roger Feutmba, Raphael Chukwu and Zane Moosa.
British football writer Henry Winter, of the Telegraph, wrote about Chelsea after their 3-1 defeat to West Ham on Saturday:
Their confidence is brittle, their second-half collapse at a crowing, bubble-filled Upton Park raising legitimate questions about their character as well as Rafa Benítez’s ability to motivate them.
Winter could have been talking about Sundowns and Neeskens during the Telkom KO at Moses Mabhida.
A friend of mine and staunch Downs supporter BBM’d me saying: “I feel like a housewife in abusive marriage. I keep hoping the situation will change but I get more beatings in return.” Sorry skat, I understand *bbm hug face**.
Here’s what I don’t get about Neeskens, which a number of tense conferences has failed to clear up. He doesn’t want to be challenged and he has no sense of consistency in selection. Holding mid Thamsanqa Sangweni went to Chloorkop will to fight for his place in the star studded team but was shafted after two brilliant performances in the 4-1 win over Kaizer Chiefs and 1-0 win over Chippa United beginning of the season.
It was the same with Edward Manqele. Why?
Elias Pelembe, one of Sundowns’ most gifted players, watches the games on television, like you and I. One week Richard Henyekane has been banished to Robben Island, the next he’s starting in the cup final.
Samuel Julies, no offense kid, is talented but too inexperienced for such a crucial midfield position in a cup final. Why couldn’t he have played Hlompo Kekana in a more advanced role in midfield? Was Kekana not the flavour of the month a few months ago, what has he done to warrant a permanent spot on the bench?
The first thing Neeskens did when appointed as Downs coach last year was get rid of the team’s best performer from the previous season, Matthew Pattison. That was the first sign of diabolical decision-making and egotism.
These are talented players, whose careers are wasting away on the sidelines whilst the man in charge berates his critics because they’ve “never kicked a soccer ball”. I’ll tell you what, Zane Moosa has kicked plenty a soccer ball but was not any less critical on television of the pathetic performance in Durban.
Neeskens is holding Sundowns at ransom; he knows that if the suits want to fire him, they’ll have to pay him out for the remaining three years of his five-year contract.
If Sundowns pick up some form, win the Nedbank Cup and finish in the top four at the end of the season I will eat these words along with humble pie and maybe also wear a hat written “Dunce of the season” for an entire day. If not, then Neeskens would have torn up more R100 bank notes than any of the Izikhothane delinquents can ever get their hands on.
I was dismayed last weekend when at the end of a Premier Soccer League match I attended, between Lamontville Golden Arrows and Maritzburg United , I caught a player smoking a cigarette in the parking lot as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
I don’t mean “caught” in the sense that I’m the prefect and his the offending school kid. But the player (who I’m not going to name) didn’t seem to find anything wrong with what he was doing.
I’m not naïve; I know soccer players drink, smoke and generally do as they please with what they put into their bodies. But these half-fit miscreants give us half-baked performances because they don’t treasure their bodies.
I know you’re probably thinking Johann Cruyff, Zinedine Zidane, Wayne Rooney, Maradona and, recently, Mesut Ozil all enjoyed the odd cigarette (Maradona enjoyed far more than just a ciggy) but that is no excuse.
Firstly, SA players hardly aspire to inspire us with performances that the afore-mentioned world stars, and secondly, they’d do well to learn the good habits of those players rather than mimic their bad ones.
It is the small things that must shift for the quality of our football to improve and for fans to return to the stadiums. I often hear about grand plans to transform our game but all those efforts will amount to piles of paperwork if the players (some, not all) don’t make an effort to be in peak physical shape.
Maybe the smell of ciggies (and often ganja) coming from the stands during Match Days is too good to resist that players jump from the showers straight to the parking lot to light one up and fulfil their craving. Whatever the reason, it must stop.
This is not an attack on smokers or on soccer players’ free will. But next time you see a soccer player labouring to a 50/50 challenge or struggling for air when tracking back to defend, think about what I said.
It seems that the only time Orlando Pirates winger Mark Mayambela is guaranteed a place in the starting XI is during the Black Label Cup final* against Kaizer Chiefs , when scores of fans get to force-sms the skilful maestro into the lineup.
On Saturday night Mayambela started on the wing (alternating flanks with Sifiso Myeni) ahead of Daine Klate and Tlou “Gautrain” Segolela – men who’ve won many a game for Pirates. However, since the Black Label Cup lets the fans decide, the eye-pleasing footwork of Mayambela got the nod over the efficiency of either Klate or Segolela.
As a total neutral (let me reveal my secret: I’m a Mthatha Bush Bucks fan so don’t ask again in the future) I observed that Mayambela looked tortured, chained at the ankles almost and trying ever so hard to be the player Pirates coaches will want to start. And here’s the interesting bit, the very same Pirates fans who guarantee Mayambela at least one start a year (albeit in a glorified exhibition match), smsed furiously for his removal at half time and he was replaced by Klate.
Now why was that so? I’m not a Pirates fan but I think I know the answer.
You see, Mayambela is a tortured soul, a creative genius, if you like, with skills so mad that you get the feeling that the ball enjoys being knocked between his left foot and his right in quick, yet poetic, rhythm. Even the way he walks, talks and dress style off the pitch suggests that he could dribble his way out of whatever life throws at him or dribble his way into any girl’s pants (cough, cough).
The 24-year-old is one of those players who always want the ball at their feet, although he doesn’t always know what to do with it once he has, but his sheer enthusiasm and lust for football transcends on the pitch and the fans sense that. Heck, we in the press box can also feel it.
He is the mould of sensational dribblers like Steve Lekoelea, Jabu Pule, Scara Ngobese, Junior Khanye and Shakes Ngwenya (there are too many to name). And what about his left foot? That limb jiggles around a football faster than you can say shibobo.
On Saturday night, though, he certainly looked tortured. He looked like a teenage boy trying to impress his father by putting on a suit and looking like an accountant when the whole family knows that all the kid wants to do is ballet dance and paint. He was trying to please coach Augusto Palacios.
Mayambela started a handful of games last season and often not featuring even in the 18-man match-day squad. The artist was put on the sidelines while the artisans were trusted with the task of defending the illustrious treble.
So to prove his worth to the team and mostly to the coach, Mayambela dumbed down his skills on Saturday and tried to play the role that Klate does consistently well – make runs, dart down the touchline and put a decent cross in for Big Benni to bury. But he failed and ended up looking like a plumber (no offence) whose inner painter was suffocating underneath the blue overalls. He did unleash a shot in anger, with that sweet left foot, which narrowly zipped past Itumeleng Khune’s crossbar.
But where were the skills? Where was the magic? Or the tsamaya that fans paid 80cents in sms money to see? Nowhere. All we saw was a desperate attempt by ballet dancer to hold down a 9am to 5pm job. Mayambela took the ball on Saturday evening, thought about dribbling but decided to pass Oupa Manyisa and being fouled before he could complete his thought process.
He botched a well-worked attacking move, with Chiefs 1-0 up, when he was put into space down the right side of the 18-yard area but got his cross totally wrong, sending the ball straight into touch, with three men waiting for a powerful low cross and thus wasting a great chance of an equaliser. His right foot, which seems more like a tea lady for his stronger left foot rather than an able assistant, had let him down.
The fans didn’t like that very much and promptly reached into their pockets, whipped out their mighty cell phones and went about dialling him out of the game. For players, it’s painful to be substituted at half time by the coach but being substituted by the fans means you’re really having a crappy game.
You see, for Mayambela, the game was more than getting another cup over their old foes Kaizer Chiefs. It was a chance to stick true to his word, to the promise he made to himself, to stay at Pirates and fight for a place in the team rather than take a loan move to PSL new-comers Chippa United.
Another dynamic, is that players of Mayambela’s outrageous skills don’t generally do well in professional football in this country. Sure they get signed by the so-called big clubs but they generally get overlooked if they don’t provide the consistency and dependency coaches admire more than skill.
Lekoelea did well for himself on the pitch and so did Jabu Pule; both could dribble the socks off the opposition but could also give their teams a much needed goal or two and pin-point cross. But for Ngobese, Khanye and others, the nifty footwork doesn’t do them much good if they don’t supplement their game with good technical ability (neat first touch, accurate cross, good cover defence, general non-wasteful nature with the ball).
Mayambela needs to do more than just dance over the ball, I know he tried (too) hard on Saturday night, and I’m sure Palacios will reward him with a place on the bench this season, at the very least.