Not every old codger can qualify for soccer glory

IN A week, what could be the biggest spectacle on African soil kicks off in South Africa.

IN A week, what could be the biggest spectacle on African soil kicks off in South Africa.

Mandela's release was just as huge as the Fifa World Cup - maybe even marginally more dramatic.

As the moment of kick-off draws nearer and nearer, one can only feel for those former soccer players who can only watch and salivate, wishing they were on the pitch.

In the run-up to the tournament, many old codgers from years gone by have come out of the woodwork to demand special recognition and perhaps free passage to the games.

Being the bleeding heart do-gooder I am, I really feel for the brothers. However, we need to be a tad realistic here: There is no way every Tom, Dick and Mandla, who had once kicked a soccer ball, can qualify for glorification.

Come to think of it, what township boy has not kicked a soccer ball?

Indeed, some of the old geezers crying foul brought joy to many of us in the dark days. Conversely, some were "cows".

One of the "cows" lives not far from my home. In his time, he played a bit of professional soccer and earned his fame for breaking quite a few bones of the players he tackled.

In a queer way, he was and still is loved by those who saw him play.

Lately, he moves from funeral to feast to night vigil to tombstone unveiling ... wherever there are prospects of a free meal and booze. He has an uncanny nose for slaughtering ceremonies. He rocks up uninvited at the most awkward corners of the township to help with the slaughtering, pitching of the tent or digging of a grave.

Each time we meet, he shakes my hand and reminds me for the umpteenth time that "your mother was mistress (not in that way, damn). I am what I am because of her."


He walks with a limp (arthritis?) but tries to hide it, which is unnecessary and must be painful. He attracts small crowds who eat out of the palm of his hand when the inevitable subject of soccer comes up.

With the World Cup here now, the hangers on tell the brother that he would definitely be in the final squad if he was still playing.

The last time I spoke to him, he echoed the complaint that the present soccer bosses have turned their backs on the old players.

"If we were overseas, we would be getting free tickets," he moaned.

Using that logic, I suppose everyone who has ever worked for a newspaper must get free newspapers for life, every baker, bread and so on.

Lest I am misunderstood, I believe soccer teams, like any industry, must recognise all those who made a contribution then and now.

But surely not every "cow" and also-ran deserves honour.

If we did that, one day our children will be called upon to honour the amazing Ras Dumisani.

Of course Brother Ras made a contribution - a uniquely hilarious contribution.