The Mzansi Magnet – With Money Like This Who Needs Europe?
Harare – In just one night, Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, walked away R575 000 richer for sweeping the board at the 2012/2013 South African premiership awards ceremony, rich pickings which observers say provide the magnet to keep the Mzansi players at home.
The Kaizer Chiefs’ skipper was the outstanding performer in the just-ended season and got due rewards for his excellent show as he won the Footballer of the Season, Players’ Player of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year and Nedbank Player of the Year awards.
Khune collected R250 000 for being voted Footballer of the Season ‑ the first goalkeeper to win the award in more than 10 years, R150 000 for being voted by his fellow professionals as Player of the Season, R125 000 for being the best player in the Nedbank Cup and R50 000 for being the Goalkeeper of the Year.
It means that in just one night, Khune took home approximately US$63 000, quite a substantial figure in earnings in football on the continent, as Africa’s richest football league flexed its muscles and rewarded its best performers handsomely.
Chiefs were also big winners, in the just-ended season, pocketing R10 million for winning their first league title in eight years and a further R7 million for completing the League and Cup double by securing the Nedbank Cup on the final day of the season.
The Amakhosi‘s combined earnings of R17 million, about US$2 million, is a bigger cheque than what is offered by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to the winners of their annual Champions League trophy.
Zimbabwe international striker, Cuthbert Malajila, came third in the Golden Boot race, in his first full season in the South African Premiership, and said the professional set-up in Mzansi is the best, by far, in terms of football on the continent.
Malajila had a brief spell in Libya before the civil war forced his early exit.
“The professionalism in South African football is the best that we have in Africa and you feel it, when you play there, that you are in a very professional set-up and you have to also respond accordingly, fulfil the expectations of a professional footballer,” Malajila told The Southern Times.
“I was playing for a small club, in terms of South African football (Maritzburg United), but they are very professional and it forces you, as a player, to try and do your best so that the goals of the club are met.
“The players deserve whatever amount they are getting because they really work very hard, in a very challenging atmosphere, and there is no room for failure.”
With mega earnings like what Khune took home on Sunday night, and players now getting as much as R300 000 in salaries per month, does that explain why some of the South African players are not under pressure to go to Europe and look comfortable playing at home?
When the 2010 World Cup exploded, there was a general expectation that a number of prominent South African footballers would cross the oceans and start plying their trade in Europe.
One of those players was Khune, who was the Bafana Bafana first-choice ‘keeper, while there were a lot of expectations on striker Katlego Mphela.
But, three years down the line, the major players in that Bafana Bafana team are still playing at home in Super Diski.
“South African football now pays more, in terms of both basic earnings and incentives, than some of the leagues in Europe and you can only count just a number of leagues that pay more – England, Italy, Spain, Germany, France – and you are talking about the heavyweights,” said Zimbabwe football agent, George Deda.
“There is also the issue of the home comforts, this is their country and they are used to it, the food, the climate, the lifestyle, you name it.
“They are citizens in that country and they can have one drink too many and when they are stopped by a police officer, they can be let off because they are the heroes and he or she maybe supports Chiefs or (Orlando) Pirates or (Mamelodi) Sundowns.
“These guys are superstars at home and you see their faces on the billboards and on television adverts and that won’t be the case when they go to play in Europe because there are far better players there, the Rooneys, the Ronaldos and the Messis.
“With such financial security, such great weather conditions and having the family and friends right on your doorstep, who really needs a move to Europe, unless it is to the big leagues but you know that it’s not easy breaking into those leagues.”