Imagine if Lucas Radebe, Quinton Fortune, Benni McCarthy, Shaun Batlett, and Steven Pienaar were never allowed to play in England because “they are foreigners”. Imagine if Steve Mokone was never allowed to play in Europe because “he’s a foreigner”. Where would our football be? We would probably have never had a player from this country captain Leeds United and play for over a decade at the club. We would probably have never had a player from this country don the famous red and white of Manchester United 126 times. We would probably never have had a player from this country who holds a Uefa Champions League medal. Heck, we would probably have never had any player in Europe because “we are foreigners”. Imagine if Kaizer Motaung had never left Orlando Pirates to play for Atlanta Chiefs – there would probably never have been a Kaizer Chiefs.
When I was growing up, there were players like Raphael Chukwu, Roger Feutmba, Mohammed Ouseb, Robert Nauseb, William Okpara and the likes in our domestic league. As time went by, we saw another generation of players from outside the country like Collins Mbesuma and Francis Chansa who were actually very hot in their early days in this country. The point I’m trying to bring across is that first of all, everyone is a foreigner somewhere in the world, and secondly, foreign people have made a significant contribution in our football in years gone by, and they continue to do so. These inhumane incidents that we have been seeing in our country in recent times are not only shocking, but also disgusting and shameful for a country that has been through so much before in the way of prejudice. What are those countries that have looked at South Africa for moral values thinking right now? We have always been seen as a symbol of hope around the world. A nation that defied the odds and proved that we can be one people that chooses to see past our differences. I remember one song that we used to sing as kids that goes ‘Let’s show the whole world, we can bring peace to our land.’ What happened to that? What happened to the teachings from our elders that we should always give a warm reception of our guests? The spirit of Ubuntu that we so often claim to possess?
Over the last ten years or so, the standard of our football has improved significantly, and I can mention some players who were at some point responsible for some of it. When you say the name of Tinashe Nengomasha, Kaizer Chiefs fans will tell you that he’s one of the best players they’ve ever had. He played alongside different generations of great players at Chiefs, but he was ever green in that midfield, making it hard to imagine a Chiefs lineup without him. Who can forget the goal scoring abilities of the late Dennis Lota at Orlando Pirates, where he was even nicknamed ‘Chisa Mpama’ the way he was so hot. When Mamelodi Sundowns won the league back-to-back in 2006 and in 2007, one Esrom Nyandoro was a vital part of that team. In one of the recent seasons, Zambian striker Christopher Katongo became the top goal scorer after even leaving in the middle of the season. Benjamin Mwaruwari came to this country and became a household name, and went on to play for some of the big clubs in England. In one television interview, I heard Gavin Hunt say the best player he’s ever coached is Mozambican Elias Pelembe.
These are just some of the players that have come to grace our country with their talent, and they have made their mark. Right now we have some others that are making their clubs look very good like Willard Katsande, Issa Sarr, Khama Billiat, Robert Ng’ambi, Frank Mhango etc. These are all just people trying to make a living for themselves, and should not be killed for it. When we hosted the World Cup in 2010, it was designed to unite people from all walks of life and different circumstances because it is common knowledge that sport has that power. Even Nelson Mandela said that it has the power to penetrate places politics rarely can. We were told that it’s a World Cup for all of Africa, by Africans. We were one. That’s why when all the other African teams were eliminated and only Ghana was remaining, we all stood together in solidarity. Remember ‘BaGhana BaGhana’? Yes, that’s how much we as Africans always looked out for one another. This barbaric act of killing one another is just not us. We are the motherland, and there has always been that sense of home in Africa, all of Africa.
While we’re killing our own people, we might as well recall May Mhlangu, Ayanda Patosi, Thulani Serero, Kgosi Ntlhe, Anele Ngcongca, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Lebogang Phiri, Tokelo Rantie, KG Dikgacoi, Steven Pienaar, and Bongani Khumalo to come back home because they are foreigners where they are. We have enough problems with our players being called monkeys in Europe, but not not in Africa. This is not us. Let us all be able to look at ourselves in the mirror in years to come and again inspire hope. Let us be able to look our children and grandchildren straight in the eye and tell a good story about our land. Let us stop it. Stop the hatred, stop the killing. Again, Mandela pleaded us not to wake up to such again when he said: ‘Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another, and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.’