naughty boys

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Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Paul "Gazza" Gascoigne, a retired English footballer, was regarded one of the most gifted players of his generation.

The legendary player, who had spells with teams such as Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur, Middlesbrough and Everton, was highly regarded on the pitch.

But, his off-field lifestyle overshadowed his talent on it.

Gascoigne, who was capped 57 times by England, suffered pneumonia, alcoholism, mental illness and other personal problems after hanging up his boots.

What a great player! Great pity he was just too prone to pressing the self-destruct button one time too many.

We also have such players in South Africa who will be remembered more for their wayward behaviour than their exploits on the field.

Remember Patrick "Ace" Mbuthu and Naughty Mokoena?

Today we have the likes of Jabu "Ngwana wa Tshwenya" Mahlangu and Mbulelo "OJ" Mabizela.

Mahlangu (formerly Pule) was believed to have gone Awol from Platinum Stars a fortnight ago but this was vehemently denied by club chairman George Khunou and the player himself.

Here are some of the off-field shenanigans that some of our current and past players have put themselves in.

Jabu Mahlangu (former Kaizer Chiefs, Supersport United Orlando Pirates, SV Mattersburg).

l Went Awol on a drinking binge in Bethlehem with partner in crime Patrick "Ace" Mbuthu while at Chiefs in May 2001;

l Failed to pitch up for Bafana Bafana's training camp forcing then coach Carlos Queiroz to drop him;

l In September 2002, he missed Bafana's flight to Abidjan for an Afcon qualifier against Ivory Coast;

l In the same year he was booked into the Musicians and Artists Assistance Programme of South Africa, a rehabilitation centre owned by renowned trumpeter Hugh Masekela, for six weeks but that did not help;

l Was arrested for abduction after he disappeared with a 16-year-old schoolgirl from Diepkloof Extension in Soweto in 2002

l Went missing again at Chiefs on the eve of a crucial Absa Cup clash against Sundowns in February 2004;

l Was summarily dismissed by his Austrian club SV Mattersburg in April 2005 after he was involved in a second drunk driving incident.

l Changed to his father's surname Mahlangu, from his mother's, Pule, in a fruitless bid to turn his luck around by appeasing his ancestors.

Mbulelo "OJ" Mabizela (former Pirates, Tottenham Hotspur (UK) Valerenga (Norway), Mamelodi Sundowns and now Platinum Stars defender).

l In December 2006, he was handed a six-month ban from the game for a drug offence;

l Was stripped of the Bafana captaincy by Stuart Baxter after arriving late for camp in June 2004;

l Was reported to have turned up drunk at training at Tottenham Hotspur in March 2004;

l Went missing on the eve of a Bafana friendly against Malawi in Germiston last September;

l Also in September, it was reported that he crashed his car while under the influence after his team lost to Kaizer Chiefs in the finals of the Nedbank Cup in Durban;

l Returned to the club after two weeks on October 7;

l Was arrested for drunk driving at a roadblock on Alan Paton Avenue in Pietermaritzburg on December 12 last year. He was found to be four times above the legal alcohol limit.

Benedict "Tso" Vilakazi (former Pirates, Aalborg and now with Mamelodi Sundowns)

l Was dragged to court on a charge of statutory rape but was later acquitted after the court fiybd the sex with the complainant, who'd fallen pregnant from the encounter and has since given birth, was consensual;

l It is believed that the sex scandal also scuppered his move to Swedish side Djurgarden;

Naughty Mokoena (former Bafana Bafana, Manning Rangers, Pirates, Moroka Swallows and AmaZulu midfielder)

lSent home from the 1998 Fifa World Cup finals in France with striker Brendan Augustine by then coach Philipe Troussier, for breaking a team curfew;

lAccused of being irregular at training at Pirates and AmaZulu

Steve "Chippa" Lekoelea (former Moroka Swallows, Pirates, Maritzburg United and Platinum Stars)

lReportedly went Awol from Stars last August;

l He had running battles with Pirates' chairman Irvin Khoza over a new contract that left him in limbo for a long time;

lAlso had running battles with management at Maritzburg which saw him feature only in a few games before being given the boot.

Patrick "Ace" Mbuthu (former Kaizer Chiefs and Manning Rangers)

l Often missed training at Chiefs, which was attributed to his love for the bottle and clubbing;

Sipho Mchabe (former Silver Stars)

l Disappeared more than five times while the team was trading under the name Silver Stars

l He remains mwithout a club after The Tycoons fired him at the beginning of last season

Mkhanyiseli Siwahla (Ajax Cape Town)

l Demoted to the Vodacom Promotional League after going Awol last month. He was also placed on the transfer list

Other players who used to cause their clubs and coaches problems include Junior Khanye and Thabiso "Skaapie" Malatsi. Both played for Chiefs and are from the same township of Daveyton, in Ekurhuleni).

It was encouraging, though, to hear Mabizela say: "I have buried my past and am looking forward to returning to Bafana Bafana".

He looked remorseful when Sowetan spoke to him last week and we can only hope that he has buried his past for good as he still has an important role to play for Bafana Bafana and deserves another chance.

Mahlangu also insisted that he has turned a new leaf and one can only imagine what he could do for South Africa at the 2010 World Cup.

Khanye is doing well at Maritzburg United, so is Malatsi, who is a key player at Gauteng Vodacom Promotional League club Value Rockets coached by Walter Rautmann.

These are all immensely talented players who bring excitement to the beautiful game, exactly what supporters and fans pay their hard- earned money to watch.