You find legends and sometimes just former players, because there’s a difference between the two, lambasting the current players in comparison to their heydays. Fair enough, sport – especially football – is a game of opinions and there are those who have earned the right to be heard, having seen and done it all on the field. These are legends whose insights are always refreshing and intriguing because they are not about bashing anyone but opening the masses’ eyes to what they feel is not getting the attention it deserves. These athletes are never about destroying the current players but showing them the way or calling them out when they feel the need. All of this is done respectfully and with lots of love because the legends know exactly how it feels to be a current player, having been there themselves. They know what it takes, they know the trappings and temptations that come with the privilege of being in that position. Theirs is usually to make sure that the current players are aware of those and avoid repeating the same mistakes that other legends committed. Some of these legends barely made mistakes, but they speak out in protection of the game that they’d given so much to, love and enjoyed as the game changed their lives completely. They are not doing it for personal glory or out of bitterness. They are doing it to ensure continuity and preserve the game that made them who they are. They are also protecting the game because they still feel strongly associated with their favourite sport.
Then there are those who will lambaste everything done by the current players. Mostly, these are former players and not the legends. Remember the difference between the two. This is a group of bitter and miserable former players who failed to capitalize on the opportunities that the game provided to them. They failed to keep their eye on the ball and fell into the trappings that come with the bright lights and the fame associated with being a professional athlete and being in the spotlight. They enjoyed their fame so much that they, unwittingly, thought it would never end. Most of them hardly lasted long enough in the game, despite the obvious talent. They were good but failed to elevate their careers to the next level. They are now a good study case to prove that talent alone is not enough. There are far lesser talented players who went on to make it big in their respective sporting codes simply because they were disciplined and focused. Out of regret, these former players become jealous of those who are in the same position now, to such an extent that they will claim today’s athletes aren’t as dedicated as them. They are all about money and no passion for sport at all, while “We just played the game for the love of it and putting smiles on our supporters’ faces. We were all about the club’s badge and that’s why we didn’t club-hop as much as the current cats are doing. They have zero loyalty and you can’t even watch their games for 20 minutes without getting bored. In fact, I don’t even watch these boys anymore.” These are some of the remarks you will get from some former players, who have absolutely nothing positive to say about the players they are supposed to be big brothers to. These players seem to forget that things have changed and therefore there is an urgent need for everyone to move with times. There is nothing wrong with celebrating your generation and believing they were better than the current, in comparison, but there’s everything wrong with celebrating one generation at the expense of the other.
Even in Basketball, you find former players calling the current generation soft and going on and on about how so-and-so wouldn’t even make the team back in the day, even though he’s one of the best current players. Comparison will always be there, but it can be done clean, without degrading or disrespecting the current players’ efforts.
Interestingly, some of the naysayers were done wrong by the Beautiful Game, where either their former clubs didn’t treat them right or they feel betrayed, let down by club bosses they trusted, and are bitter. A lot of things happen behind the scenes, but it is one thing to despise your former team for whatever reasons and it is another thing to take your frustrations out on the current players. Strange as it may sound, some former players and even legends hate the sport they served with pride and enjoyed so much because of the raw deal they feel they got from it. Some are still owed monies, while others still believe they were exploited, but to take it out on the current generation instead of grabbing the proverbial bull by the horn is not fair. Sport in general has changed in the last 15 years or so, most players are earning much better and the working conditions have improved immensely. It is not the current players’ fault that teams are now forced to take better care of them than they used to do back in the day. It is not the current players’ fault that there’s more money in sport and endorsements now than back in the day. It also can’t be blamed on the current players that the whole system has changed and technology has made things better. There is more scientific approach in the game than back then, even the injuries now aren’t the same as back then. Truth be told, while the current players are earning better than former players, those very same former players were earning better than the generation before them and so on and so forth and stuff like that! Let’s tolerate one another.
Maybe it is time we stopped comparing and just appreciated the different generations. Maybe that way, the ongoing professional jealousy will be a thing of the past where we will not hear of anything like, “These boys are earning too much but lack quality. They have more resources, yet they’re not better than us.” The current players have been so quiet and focused on the job at hand as you hardly hear them retaliate whenever shade is thrown at them. The last active player to do so was Lerato Chabangu clapping back at then Minister of Sport, Fikile Mbalula, who famously called Bafana Bafana a bunch of losers! Affectionately known as All You Need is Love, Chabangu wasted no time with his well-documented response, “He’s also a bunch of losers.”
On a separate note, just like some of the greatest soccer teams move from iconic soccer stadiums from time to time, the Soccer Laduma website is moving to a new digital cathedral called SNL24.com When you wake up on Monday morning, we will be sharing a new online home with two iconic South African titles, namely KICK OFF and Daily Sun. The new site is called SNL24.com and will bring you the best in Soccer, News and Lifestyle content from all three publications in one convenient place. You can still visit your favourite website at www.snl24.com/soccerladuma, but if you click on the SNL24 button, you will see a mix of the best stories from all three brands in one convenient place. We hope you will enjoy the new look and feel of the snl24.com/soccerladuma website and that you will spend some time ‘walking around’ your new home to get a feel for the new features. Registered users will need to re-register to get the full functionality of the website, including the ability to comment on stories, save articles for later, access weather and traffic alerts for your area and subscribe to newsletters. Registering is free!