IOL soccer writer Njabulo Ngidi shares his thoughts on SA football's attitude to alcohol. Photo: Karen Sandison

I am on first-name terms with several barmen in Joburg, including the place in Newtown that teaches people how beer is made.

But my mother doesn’t know that I drink, so you can take my ramblings about drinking openly with a pinch of salt... a lime and a shot.

I don’t drink in front of her nor discuss the matter with her out of respect, not that she has barred me from doing so at home or anywhere else for that matter.

I would like to think that I have a healthy relationship with alcohol, except on Tuesdays  that’s my day off in this relationship.

The problem with not drinking openly is that it leads to binge drinking whenever one has an opportunity, so as to make up for lost time. That’s why I think that South African football’s attitude towards drinking needs to change.

Baroka FC parted ways with captain Olaleng Shaku and 2017 Fifa Puskas award runner-up Oscarine Masuluke amid allegations that the pair were part of a group that drank on the team bus on the ride from Bethlehem to Polokwane after their 2-0 loss to Free State Stars.

Bakgaga coach Kgoloko Thobejane snubbed the club’s disciplinary hearing that was set for Wednesday, which is likely to see him also follow Shaku and Masuluke out of the team.

It is alleged that he was also involved, along with assistant goalkeeper coach Tshegofatso Machoene and kit manager Delbert Lekoana.

If it’s in the club’s rules that no drinking on the team bus then by all means those who drank on the bus ought to be punished for breaking team protocol.

But if it’s not in the rules, then there is nothing wrong with what they did.

Having a beer after a game isn’t such a bad thing. A lot of people do that after work and in some sporting codes they openly drink after a game or a series.

Heck, some do it even in the change-room because they are treated like adults.

Thobejane’s best attribute that leads to him getting the best out of Baroka is his relationship with the players. He is one of the boys, yet he is professional enough to be serious when it’s time to get the job done.

I have spoken to a number of Baroka players on what is it about the charismatic Thobejane that brings the best out of them.

All of them spoke about how much they are driven to not disappoint him because of how he treats them, allowing them space to grow while also steering them in the right direction.

You don’t have to look further than Gift Motupa who is a different player at Baroka than he is at Orlando Pirates. Motupa credits the understanding and the relationship he has with Thobejane for his turnaround since his return to his childhood club.

The problem is that our approach to drinking is “don’t drink”, which is unrealistic. We should instead say, “drink, by all means, but do so in a responsible manner and if need be, drink around us so that it’s in a controlled environment”.

This “don’t drink” attitude leads to players binge-drinking whenever they have an opportunity because it’s something that’s frowned upon in team environments.

It’s like children who grow up in strict households. The moment they are in a space that’s not as heavily controlled as their home, they go wild knowing that this freedom won’t last so they make the most of it.

But if you give people freedom and tell them to be responsible with it, more often than not you will find well-behaved people.

You will never abuse something that you can enjoy freely without limitations.

This attitude of preaching not to drink might not necessarily create the players who abuse alcohol but it contributes to it because once they get the opportunity they make the most of it.

Alcohol isn’t necessarily a problem but it’s the abuse of it that is the problem. If you allow people to drink in a controlled environment, you can even be quick to see who abuses it so that you can help them if you can.

We’ve lost a number of talented players through abuse of alcohol.

And with many of them it’s because they didn’t seek help or even realised that they needed help because outside their clubs, they hang out with men who would never tell them it’s enough as those players are the ones buying booze.

Saturday Star

Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter