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This n that with M'lphosa: Football gone to the sissies?

30 Oct 2016 at 12:57hrs | Views

Mankind has enjoyed ball games, especially football – which is considered a sport for the poor until one sits down and analyses the figures – for over two thousand years. Football especially has evolved over the years, refining into a gentleman's game it is considered to be today. It is said that in the 16th century, the city of Florence celebrated the period between Epiphany and Lent by playing a game which today is known as "calcio storico" ("historic kickball") in the Piazza Santa Croce. The young aristocrats of the city would dress up in fine silk costumes and embroil themselves in a violent form of football. For example, calcio players could punch, shoulder charge, and kick opponents. Blows below the belt were allowed. The game is said to have originated as a military training exercise, and it is clear that the tackles allowed included the charging and holding of opposing players, tackling them mercilessly and throwing them violently to the hard surface. Bruises and broken limbs and twisted facial features were all 'legal' injuries in a game of football.

The early forms of football played in England, sometimes referred to as "mob football", would be played between neighbouring towns and villages, involving an unlimited number of players on opposing teams who would clash en masse, struggling to move an item, such as inflated animal's bladder to particular geographical points, such as their opponents' church, with play taking place in the open space between neighbouring parishes. It could have been from BF to Gwanzura or the other way round if it had been Highlanders versus Dynamos, or Orlando to Phefeni in the case of Pirates versus Chiefs – each opposing mob defending their parish as zealously as possible – sacrificing life and limb in the process, or London to Manchester if Liverpool played any of the Manchester teams. The game was played primarily during significant religious festivals, such as Christmas or New Year or Easter or the King's Birthday..

While football continued to be played in various forms throughout Britain, its public schools (known as private schools in other countries) are widely credited with four key achievements in the creation of modern football codes. First of all, the evidence suggests that they were important in taking football away from its "mob" form and turning it into an organized team sport. Second, many early descriptions of football and references to it were recorded by people who had studied at these schools. Third, it was teachers, students and former students from these schools who first codified football games, to enable matches to be played between schools. Finally, it was at English public schools that the division between "kicking" and "running" (or "carrying") games first became clear, ensuring that football evolved from the disordered and violent forms of traditional football:

In later years, players were reduced to smaller numbers and sorted into sides and standings. They were no longer allowed to meet with their bodies so boisterously to try their strength: nor shouldering or shuffling one another so barbarously. And the rules continued to be made and explored and experimented with; and the result is this game we see today – where-by even the weakest and cowardly can try their luck. Who, among the present day players, would have played the game in the fifteenth century? One would be forgiven to think they are watching some pre-school kids playing some form of 'touch-and-fall' kind of game. Each time ones looks up, there is some drama queen act happening in the field of play. It's either a player decided to dive onto the turf either because it feels so good, or because they were about to lose the ball to their opponent, or an opponent came at high speed and the air they generated blew the other players to the ground, or because they are at such a strategic area they so desperately want a free kick or a straight penalty. For others lazy ones, the match has taken longer than they expected and they cannot take anymore strain.

So, if you had such players in your team and you are supposed to push and kick and propel the ball to Cape Town from Soweto, how many days will that take you? And how many present day players will get there on their feet, let alone alive?

A football game is supposed to have one man in charge – assisted by two or three other officials – who are not supposed to kick the ball in any way. But nowadays our players double up as referees too. I used to see Drogba when he played in the Africa Cup of Nations; he would virtually take over as the in charge, except that he did not have the whistle or the flag on him. He'd point to the corner kick spot each time he thought his team deserved a corner kick, or to the penalty spot, or hold the ball in his hands to influence the ref to give him a free kick, and hold his hand up high motioning to the ref to give his opponent a card. He'd want to chew the ref's head off if the ref didn't see things the way Drogba did. We see many of such actions in soccer games. One 'Soweto-derby' team is well known for its players spending most of the game time diving and lying on the turf than running and fighting for the ball. What a pathetic lot!

Yet referees too, would love to influence the outcome of certain games. There is a known ref in Zimbabwe; he will add as much as twelve minutes of injury time if his team is being beaten but promising to score an equalizer; he'd even reduce the time if it is the opposition threatening to score. We have also heard of matches being played and won etafuleni. Bribery scams have eaten into the game and players have not been spared. Football organizations like Fifa and Zifa have fallen on hard times because of bribery allegations. It is the poor supporter or spectator who suffers in the end. This has led to the development of the skeptical supporter who refuses to give any margin for error. If you make a costly mistake or you seem not to be committed, we will whistle and boo you out of the field, regardless of your previous contribution or standing in the team. Our own Kapini almost had his house in Mpopoma set on fire when he let that harmless looking ball go in for a goal at Bf, costing Highlanders the game against their bitter rivals. We have heard of that defender that was shot dead in Colombia because he scored an own goal. In many parts of the world, players and coaches have been escorted out of the field of play by the police, as supporters of teams refuse to accept the negative results coming their teams' way, sometimes for games that looked too easy on paper. Yet games are not played on paper!

The code of dress has also left a lot to be desired amongst many so called professional players. The shorts go down to where the bums begin, leaving all that sweaty offensive mess exposed. Yet this is supposed not only to be a gentlemen's game but also a family sport. The spectators too like to exposes themselves in  support of their teams. Did you see that beautiful lady in the Soweto derby yesterday? Just because she had on a g-string with the Pirates logo barely covering her essentials, she wanted the world to see all that support. One white guy with a fish tattooed to his big wide pink bum in support of Mark Fish, that great Bafana player, made it into the front pages of popular reads in 1996. Most of like mind thought he was a hero but his wife and children didn't agree. He almost went through a short but painful divorce!

Then there are these age cheats! One foot ball administrator aptly put it – 'It is only in Africa where you find an under-17 soccer player with three children, a mansion and a sports car.' We know some players who somehow manage to use their younger brothers' names and birth records for life! I know one player I played with at Stars United which later became Phinda Mzala, then Amazulu from Bulawayo. One of them came to play in the SA league and was twenty five for a long long time. I watched as I grew older and this young promising player remained 25! What makes it so difficult to stop this obvious crime is that everyone does it – all over the world. After all, age is just a number. Look at Nomvethe – one player who has continued to defy age – but will never tell anyone that he is 25. He could be a hundred years old but if he can still deliver better than most young players, why not give him a chance! How old was Roger Miller of Cameron when he became a world cup hero in the nineties? How old was the English Keeper Peter Shilton when he finally retired from active football? One Kawondera tried cheating in Poland; a bone marrow test revealed that he was in fact, not 25 but 36. Ngiyabonga mina!

Source - Clerk Ndlovu
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

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