Nip destroyers in bud

Sipho Mthembu

Sipho Mthembu

I had intended giving a blow-by-blow account of the shambles that was the Mandela Challenge build-up in London, England last week.

However, that was overtaken by events at the weekend when Orlando Pirates became the first big casualties of the multi-million Telkom Knockout Cup, and frankly, the Mandela Challenge debacle has been milked thoroughly.

So, even the lure of a R4,25 million winner's cheque has failed to motivate the Buccaneers to maintain a consistent winning performance, especially at home.

"Our home ground is cursed," scream their supporters every time their forwards continue missing chances, sometimes as clear-cut that missing is more difficult than scoring.

"Our management need to get strong muti. We have been bewitched," they say.

However, the "Ghost" need not look further than among themselves to nab those responsible of "bewitching" their team. In fact, Ellis Park is no longer a conducive environment for any player to conjure up good performances.

While their supporters have returned in their thousands, so has the bad element with only one mission, to destroy.

The word supporter derives from support and, according to the Oxford Concise dictionary support means "carry all or part of the weight, keep from falling or failing".

Now, there is an element in the Pirates' terraces, especially at Ellis Park, that does the opposite of supporting. From being a "Park of Pain" to opponents, Ellis Park has transformed to a park of pain to their own players.

So fickle is the Ellis Park crowd that the team virtually freezes there. They have become scared of failing. Once they fail to score in the first 15 minutes, this element gets hostile and starts booing their own.

A great talent such as Isaac Chansa was almost destroyed at Ellis Park. With frustration tolerance levels varying among individuals, Davis Mwape did not survive.

How do you explain that Phumudzo Manenzhe has dropped from eight goals a season to a virtual zero. Lelo Mbele misses gilt-edged chances he easily buried when he arrived at Bucs. Hytham Tambal is the latest target. The Sudanese marksman has nothing to prove. He terrorised Bucs at the same Ellis Park.

All he needs is adapt to the cultural shock of moving from a mainly Muslim, war-torn, French speaking, to a South African fast-paced game and lifestyle. With such a thankless crowd behind them, few should be surprised that others veer off the rails in frustration. No one can stand being a hero today and a total zero just for having a bad day at the office.