JOHANNESBURG - The blurred lines that separate victim from villain in an impasse between a player who wants to leave for greener pastures and a club fighting to keep that player makes it hard to reach common ground.
“It’s different when a player wants to force their way out of a club when they have a contract or when a club gives you the go-ahead to look for a new club and when you get a good offer they then do an about turn and refuse to let him go,” Prosport International chief executive Mike Makaab said.
The transfer window, that closes at midnight on Thursday, has seen some players in South Africa and in Europe look to force their way out of clubs by boycotting training and going Awol.
“It’s a very difficult situation for not only the player but the club,” Ajax Cape Town boss, Ari Efstathiou said. “The bottom line is that the club is expected to honour their part of a contract, players should do the same. It gets difficult when players are influenced by journalists and agents who promise them heaven and earth.”
Efstathiou speaks from experience on the matter. The Urban Warriors’ Rivaldo Coetzee boycotted training amidst interest from Mamelodi Sundowns, who were put off by a hefty fee Ajax placed on the defender. It is alleged that Coetzee was frustrated by the impasse and the fact that Ajax were demanding exorbitant amounts even though how much they paid him, didn’t reflect the value they placed on him. Ajax are also at logger-heads with their captain Travis Graham.
“We started speaking with Travis a year ago,” Efstathiou said. “He has been at the club for 14 years and we wanted to show him that we value his services and should he move, recoup some of the money we invested in him and his development. He said he wanted to go abroad and we had no objections.
"We engaged with his agent and he said there was no overseas deal. But when we asked him then about renewing his contract, he told the coach that he shouldn’t be in his plans because he wants to leave. How do we then field a player whose heart isn’t here? But since he is still contracted to us, I have to pay him.”
The South African Football Players Union and a player’s representatives are there to protect them from exploitation and importantly ensure that clubs honour their contracts. But what happens when players are the ones who aren’t honouring their contracts?
“Maybe we should start a clubs’ union,” Efstathiou said jokingly.
But club owners aren’t always victims. Some are quick to discard a player to the reserves or make them train alone if they sign a pre-contract or start speaking about wanting to move even though they have and will continue to give their all.
Satisfying all parties with a transfer is what causes the impasse. Clubs want a good deal and not to be left vulnerable in that position while the player wants to move up and agents are also looking for their cut. There’s also not wanting to strengthen your opponents while you remain vulnerable.
“Players must know that for another club to show interest in you and be willing to fork out serious cash to get you means you have done something good,” Makaab said. “There will always be a demand for your services if you keep doing that. When you decide to go on a boycott, that does more damage to you than the club. Football is business and wherever there is money involved people will protect their interests.”