Unplugged by BBK
Pre-contracts are part and parcel of rules of engagement
Clubs have no right to condemn a player when he feels the grass is greener elsewhere
The termination of the contract of Hendrik Ekstein has sparked consternation.
The dismay is borne out of the fact that the player, a product of the Kaizer Chiefs youth development programme, had just over two months left on his contract.
His cardinal sin appears to be signing a pre-contract with another club - which the green flies believe to be Orlando Pirates - to the chagrin of Chiefs.
This is a bizarre turn of events.
Bizarre because in the past couple of months, Ekstein appeared to be a firm favourite of coach Ernst Middendorp.
The German recently went as far as publicly praising the Randfontein-born footballer as one of the potent weapons in his arsenal as Middendorp bids to bring the gloss to the flagging fortunes of the Glamour Boys of Mount Naturena.
The exasperation from the Chiefs fans seems to be informed by the timing of the termination.
It came at a time when Ekstein, whom many had hoped was in the mould of Jabu [Pule] Mahlangu, appeared to be getting into the groove, albeit belatedly.
He says the club was not willing to meet him halfway in terms of his salary demands. When the negotiations broke down and before he blinked, he was shown the door.
Ekstein polarises opinion. Some believe he has not really stepped up to the plate. In some quarters he is seen as one who never really fulfilled whatever promise they saw in him.
It is fair to say his time with the club does not conjure up images of an inspiring chap who created chapter upon chapter of memorable moments like Jabu Pule.
You can't argue against the numbers. In four-and-a-half seasons, the stats say: 97 matches, 57 starts, 40 substitute appearances, nine goals and just two assists.
Do with those numbers what you will.
A disturbing feature of this development is the disdain with which clubs tend to treat players who are in the final six months of their contracts.
The rules allow them to negotiate and sign a pre-contract with their prospective club while running down the final months at their soon-to-be former employer.
Yet in this horror movie, the villain is always the player.
The landscape is littered with numerous examples of players being treated unkindly.
Up north in Polokwane, Rodney Ramagalela was loved as a lethal marksman for Polokwane City. But no sooner had the club caught wind that the striker had signed a pre-contract with Highlands Park, he was isolated like a patient with a deadly contagious disease.
Pictures of him cutting a forlorn figure sitting on the grandstands of the Old Peter Mokaba Stadium as he watched his teammates train, told a tale of how heartless some SA clubs can be.
A similar scene of player ill-treatment played out at Bidvest Wits. They ostracised Reeve Frosler from the senior side and sent him to train with Wits juniors. The reason for Frosler being frozen out was refusing to go for a trial with a second-tier club in Portugal, opting instead to sign a pre-contract with Kaizer Chiefs.
Marks Munyai of Black Leopards was at loggerheads with the Lidoda Duvha because he crossed the t's and dotted the i's with Highlands Park.
Some people subscribe to the school of thought that dictates: if you want loyalty get a dog. But loyalty is a two-way street. It can't be that a player is deemed as loyal only when he gives blood, sweat and tears for the club only to be dismissed as an ungrateful, disloyal bastard the moment he wants to take his career elsewhere. Unless of course we are operating in an environment of slavery.
Clubs have no right to condemn a player when he feels the grass is greener elsewhere. Penning a pre-contract is permissible in the rules governing the game. It is an integral part and parcel of the rules of engagement.