Cape Town – All the best football tales I have heard since I decided I didn’t want a real job (preferring rather to be paid for watching sport) have been about people’s excursions in Africa.
When you spend a lot of time with your peers at matches and on tour, you hear a lot of these true-life dramas over a few beers. People like to share their experience of football on our beautiful continent, some of it good, some of it bad and some of it funny.
I’m not going to mention names in a couple of these stories I want to share with you on this quite wonderful of Fridays – it’s the day before the Currie Cup final and the Soweto derby after all.
Many of the stories are about the struggles of filing copy before sub-editors start phoning you in a language not too far off French. But mostly it’s about standing together, and helping each other get over the trials of travelling for football in Africa.
I remember one colleague telling me that he once had to get on the back of a motorbike with his laptop and a few memory sticks of other journalists to record a rare Bafana victory away from home. The reporter recalled how they drove on the wrong side of the road to avoid the rush hour traffic.
He volunteered to help the other hacks, and all of them got their stories through in the end because of his bravery.
Back in 1995, on Orlando Pirates’ way to their first continental title, a journalist, under the influence of a good few drinks, decided it would be a good idea to light a cigarette while the team’s plane was refuelling for the trip back to Johannesburg. However, that journalist was tackled by none other than Mark Fish before he blew up himself up and most of the players who would help Bafana lift the 1996 African Cup of Nations trophy.
Fish, also has a couple of stories about Bafana’s journeys, most notably their trip to Point Noire to face the Congo in 1997. Fish recalled that Bafana coul not train at the venue because the army was standing in front of the gate with guns the size of cannons. One of them even cocked his gun.
During the match, Fish also sustained a huge gash to the head, but played on a with a bloodied headband to help Bafana qualify for the next Afcon.
During my first Afcon – Ghana 2008 – I was the only South African journalist not to get my accreditation after a mini gang fight, which included headbutts, a few elbows to the face and a bruised ego.
However, I managed to get into the stadium for Bafana’s first match of the tournament after colleagues smuggled me through security. The guys weren’t about to leave the bloodied rookie behind on the battle field.
And it’s that sort of togetherness and camaraderie that has helped Pirates overcome the odds to make it to the final of the Champions League.
The Bucs have overcome some huge odds to make it this far, including the usual dodgy penalties, dodgy pitches and hostile crowds in north Africa, who seem to be stuck in the disco era after pointing their green lasers in the Bucs players’ faces.
This Pirates team is arguably less talented than the one which won the title back in 1995. But the character they have shown has been unbelievable.
Coach Roger de Sa should take a lot of credit for that.
I know from his days at Santos that he is an emotional fellow, having shed a tear during an announcement that the People’s Team legend Edries Burton was going to retire. And it’s that sort of passion that has helped the team overcome any hurdle that is put in their way.
It’s tough touring in Africa, and it really makes you appreciate home comforts, such as not having to brush your teeth with bottled water because you could get sick.
But in Mzansi we always stick together, and hold hands when the chips are down. So let’s take hands now and support Pirates to overcome one final hurdle, they’ve earned our support.
TWEETS OF THE WEEK
@markfish74 (The former Pirates defender celebrates Pirates’ Champions League success): Well done to the buccaneers...pirates that dream is almost a reality!!!Once and always a pirate!!
@Cristiano (Cristiano Ronaldo copped a bit of flak for his wording in this tweet): Just realize that there’s a lot of buzz around my #cr7underwear collection for kids.
WHO TO FOLLOW
@PhilMasinga: The former Bafana striker is doing some top development work with South African Breweries at the moment.
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