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Safa responds to Sundowns coach Mokwena: 'It is demeaning and also defamation of character'

21 October 2021 - 14:15 By MNINAWA NTLOKO
South African Football Association chief medical doctor Thulani Ngwenya is not happy with Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Rulani Mokwena's utterances.
South African Football Association chief medical doctor Thulani Ngwenya is not happy with Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Rulani Mokwena's utterances.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

SA Football Association (Safa) chief medical doctor Thulani Ngwenya has fired back at Rulani Mokwena after the Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach suggested that their players return from national duty either carrying injuries or fatigued.

Ngwenya was not impressed that instead of talking about Sundowns' 2-2 draw with Congolese side AS Maniema Union in a Caf Champions League match on Sunday afternoon, Mokwena elected to use the opportunity to lash out at Bafana Bafana and the Safa medical department.

The Sundowns coach's utterances upset a lot of people at Safa House, as he also suggested that the Pretoria club is unable to communicate with the members of the medical department, that they do not know the training programme that is followed by Bafana and the national team's itinerary is never shared with them.

Ngwenya was not amused and communicated his unhappiness to TimesLIVE on Thursday.

“First, I am disappointed that technical people are discussing medical matters,” the upset Safa chief medical doctor said without mincing his words.

“I am disappointed [because] it means the technical people at Sundowns are also not communicating with the medical department [at the Pretoria club], if any. But I have spoken personally to both Dr Carl Tabane and Dr Paul Maphoto [they are members of the Sundowns medical team] regarding their players.

“I have seen a report that was sent by Dr Tshepo Molobi. He copied me because he copies me on all correspondences that have to do with medical. It was sent to Mamelodi Sundowns. It is just unfortunate.”

Ngwenya said the Safa physical trainer also made a point of sharing the GPS scores of the players to their counterparts at Sundowns.

“So it is just disappointing when you get a coach [Mokwena] saying such things,” he said.

“It seems as if we are not professional and it is unfortunate. I have been at Bafana for 10 years now and Sundowns have had coaches, and the previous coach [Pitso Mosimane] before the current coaches [Mokwena, Manqoba Mngqithi and Steve Komphela], have never complained that we do not give them reports.”

The simmering tension between the two parties started a few weeks ago when an incensed Bafana coach Hugo Broos accused Sundowns and Orlando Pirates of sabotaging his plans in the build-up to the recent back-to-back 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Ethiopia.

Bafana beat the East Africans home and away [3-1 and 1-0 respectively] but Broos dominated the headlines after he suggested that there were attempts to undermine his work.

Mokwena then responded with his own salvo a few days ago, suggesting, among other things, that key players Thapelo Morena, Rushine de Reuck, Thabiso Kutumela and Mothobi Mvala returned from national duty in poor shape.

“But jah it is what it is, ours is just to focus on what we can focus on, try to control what we can control. And as I reiterate once again that as Mamelodi Sundowns we will always look to support the national cause, but it is just a bit disappointing that for the last two international breaks [when] we received our players, they came back with injury complications and these are all muscular,” Mokwena said during his missive on Sunday.

“And muscular complications speak to you about the training load, match load. We have to improve in that space and see how we can get better relations between the clubs [and the national team]. I see [Pirates player] Vincent Pule is also out, so something is happening in that space and I am not quite sure what it is.”

These comments and many others made by Mokwena rubbed Ngwenya and Safa up the wrong way, with the chief medical doctor taking a dim view of the utterances.

“If you remember last year, we visited all the clubs with [former Bafana coach] Molefi Ntseki,” he said on Thursday.

“I mean, why now are we all of a sudden not communicating? What I would really ask is that technical  people must leave medical matters to medical people. They must not use medical people when they have got their own issues to deal with, because it is unfortunate.

“When dealing with medical matters you deal with sensitive issues and there are [things] we cannot say in the media because of the ethical code governing us. So it is unfortunate that you have a technical person who would speak so badly about another professional.

“It is demeaning and it is also defamation of character, because it is saying that you are not professional. I am not happy with that.”

Safa leadership and their Sundowns counterparts are expected to meet soon in an attempt to clear the air and de-escalate the tension.