Foul Play On And Off The Field

The booing monster has once again reared it’s ulgy head in football, but this time it’s not quite at a place where we’ve all come to expect, on the field of play.  On this occasion it is the unforgiving world of social media that has seen a football player fall foul, ironically for complaining about coming under fire.

On Sunday night AFC Bournemouth forward Tokelo Rantie tweeted:  ‘If Marco Reus was playing for Bafana they would have booed him’.  Continuing his rant in “public”, the Parys-born man said:  ‘But he’s playing for a nation that understands football, the fans encourage him.’  Naturally, this rubbed some of the South African fans up the wrong way.  Rantie soon found out that the cyber world can be just as ruthless as 40 000 people in a football stadium.

Not long after his post, attacks were coming from all directions, with fans making it clear that they will under no circumstances applaud mediocrity.  This was not the first time a professional footballer has sparked controversy on social media in recent times.  A few months ago, Itumeleng Khune felt agrieved by the decision to send him off by eventual referee of the season Philip Tinyani, and he too took to twitter to express his frustration.

He was subsequently charged by the league, but not before he felt the full wrath of the social media world as a consequence of his actions.  We live in the age of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc and most of us use these platforms on a daily basis, even to do exactly what they did, complain about our place of employment.  We all become frustrated by what we encounter in the work place, and telling the whole world about it just seems to lessen the burden.

Don’t ask me how, but it does.  The difference though, is that unlike football players we are not in the public eye and under constant scrutiny.  I know it’s not fair, but they cannot go around making comments like that. 

It is unprofessional, unsportsmanlike, and could be deemed provocative therefore putting lives in danger.  This is why players are always warned against retaliating with hand signals to fans after scoring.  Signals that are meant to say ‘What do you say now?’

Tokelo is not the first player to be booed, and this does not mean by any stretch of the imagination that I condone the barbaric act.  All I’m saying is that he has to channel his anger in the right path.  Me and Rantie being abouth the same age, he would have seen a certain Phil Masinga play.

Now this is a man who knows exactly how he’s feeling.  Despite his best moment being the goal he scored to send Bafana to France for their first ever World Cup in ’98, Chippa endured many lonely days in the green and gold of South Africa.  Despite all that, he never had any public outburst.

I know I’ll get comments like ‘there was no social media at the time’, but my answer would be that there were platforms of that time where he could have done such.  I certainly do not agree with Rantie’s suggestion that SA fans do not understand the game.  I sincerely believe that we are a football country, and our fans know what they want, just that they are sometimes unfair in how they want it.

The other growing trend is that of making hand signals as if to suggest to the coach that he should make a substitution.  This is in disapproval of a certain player.  This is one act that irked Stuart Baxter the most about the Kaizer Chiefs fans when they wanted Kingston Nkatha to come off.

Although some said they don’t understand Nkatha’s role, I felt that the player also didn’t help his cause by missing some relatively easy chances to score.  The same can be said about Rantie.  I suspect that some have also not forgiven him for missing a crucial penalty at this year’s AFCON.

A penalty that would have most probably won Bafana that match against Algeria.  I think fans all over the world make their feelings known when they’re not happy about something, not just in this part of the world.  Recently we saw Olivier Giroud miss what the Arsenal fans thought was a sitter in a Uefa Champions League match, and boy did they have a go at him. 

Last season Gareth Bale of Real Madrid did not have the best of times at the Santiago Bernabeau with the Los Blancos faithful booing him every time he got the ball.  In north Africa, fans boo even the entire team if they feel their performance is below par.  So this is not a trend unique to South Africa.

Having said that, I think jeering your own players serves absolutely no purpose to anyone.  All you’re going to get is the player’s confidence taking a deeper dive, which will probably affect the whole team.  The coach has already played him, so the better thing would be to make him feel better and increase his chances of scoring.

My stance in all of this is, everybody must just stay in their own lanes.  The fans must actually support and the players must avoid social media confrontations.  Finish and klaar!