Alcohol abuse taking its toll on PSL clubs and players
Clubs say problem is showing no sign of ending soon
Premier Soccer League clubs continue to be troubled by ill-disciplined players who abuse alcohol and other substances, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of rands.
This week Sunday Times conducted a snap survey by speaking to most of the clubs in the league and their responses were unequivocal that this problem, which has persisted for many years and resulted in many promising careers being shortened, is showing no sign of stopping.
Recently, Mamelodi Sundowns terminated the contract of former Bafana Bafana defender Siyabonga Zulu due to off-field problems. Lerato Chabangu, Luyolo Nomandela, Mbulelo "OJ" Mabizela and many others have admitted that their careers were halted by alcohol abuse.
JONATHAN SCHLOSS (BIDVEST WITS)
"It is a serious problem in SA football. In the past we had players who really struggled to control their drinking but at the moment we have a good squad with professional players who look after themselves very well," said the Wits chief operating officer.. "Things like that have a negative impact because players end up missing training and matches. We try to help them with counselling or rehabilitation and their conduct creates divisions among the players."
STAN MATTHEWS (SUPERSPORT UNITED)
"If you get a job in the banking, finance, medical, teaching or any other job out there and you don't pitch for work drunk you will get fired," said United's CEO. "But in football, somehow we are supposed to accept that as okay.
"The lifestyle of people is their responsibility and if a player can't be his best because of his lifestyle, then he shouldn't be a player. If I go to work drunk tomorrow, I will be sacked the same day but players somehow feel that they are entitled to come to training drunk and we should continue paying them millions like nothing is happening.
"You know I have chased away many, many players not because of their ability but because of their lifestyle.
"People have to be professional and we don't necessarily see that professionalism shining through week in and week out in the PSL with the amount of cases that we see around drinking. It is a problem for everyone."
KHURISHI MPHAHLELE (BAROKA FC)
"It is a huge problem that we are faced with in our football and you remember that last season we parted ways with former coach Kgoloko Thobejane alongside captain Olaleng Shaku and goalkeeper Oscarine Masuluke because of issues related to drinking," said the Baroka owner.
"It is due to bad lifestyle choices by guys who suddenly find themselves earning a lot of money and getting all the attention but we try to help them with counselling and sometimes it would help and sometimes it doesn't.
"The unfortunate thing is that in some cases, players are not interested in getting help and there is nothing much you can do about it."
RANTSI MOKOENA (FREE STATE STARS)
"It is a problem that we can't hide or run away from as football administrators but to be honest we haven't had any problems recently here at Free State Stars," said the Stars General Manager.
"I had problems in the past with players who are no longer here but at the moment I have a group of people who take their jobs seriously and they want to help this team to get out of the situation that we find ourselves in. In every environment, you will always have a few bad apples and it happens in football and in life in general."
BRILLIANT MKHATHINI (AMAZULU FC)
"Players do drink as individuals in their spare time but as a club we try by all means to make them aware that they must do it responsibly. We even have a way of testing them before training just to make sure they don't come intoxicated. We don't have a lot of cases with our current squad," said AmaZulu FC's Media Officer.
"We've got a fair amount of discipline in the team and that is obviously helped by the rules that the players know they must adhere to at all times if they are still part of our club."
THULAGANYO GAOSHUBELWE (SOUTH AFRICAN FOOTBALL PLAYERS UNION)
"As a union, we will continue teaching the players, show them the dangers of abusing alcohol. With our relationship with the clubs improving, we will have more access to the players," said Saftu president Thulaganyo Gaoshubelwe.
"Yes we have had cases of alcohol abuse by some of our players and we are making a call that anybody who's experiencing this problem must come up and get help before their careers end prematurely. We are also working with psychologists in trying to help our members who have these challenges."
JAZZMAN MAHLAKGANE (PLAYERS' AGENT)
"From my point of view, it does not only affect the PSL only but it is a bigger societal problem and it needs the efforts of communities, media, clubs and many other components to deal with it.
"If you go to workplaces on Monday morning, you will find there are many people who are not at work because they had a lot to drink the previous day.
"If a club calls to complain about one of our players, I call them in so that I can understand what's the problem so that we can find a way of dealing with it.
"We have seen too many careers destroyed by this thing and I am happy that players like Jabu Mahlangu, Mbulelo Mabizela and Lerato Chabangu are openly talking about it and it is up to the current players to learn from their experiences."