Our players lack mental attitude
Posted Saturday, October 5 2013 at 01:00
The recent signing of Ivan Bukenya by Kaizer Chiefs has been greeted with as much excitement as ridicule. It is not that the boy doesn’t have the talent to match his new team mates; it’s just that few believe he is the 21 years old quoted by the Amakhosi website. In fact a friend of mine swears that there is no way Ivan Bukenya 8 years younger than he is seeing that they were classmates. My friend is making 30 in November.
Now I had not verified the boy’s age (or that of my friend) by the time I wrote this but I know that the falsifying of age by footballers is so common that it is almost considered normal! So our footballers are more likely to say they are 20 even if they are 30 but I am thinking no matter how typical this behaviour is it isn’t because they are borne cheats but because they haven’t had the opportunity to develop the mental attitude to be professionals early enough.
Because we don’t have the underage playing and training set ups most of what we see as early-learning is actually recreational. Our 14 year olds are at the mercy of dirt pitches and ‘coachas’ who are completely unable to develop them mentally. In the end those who aren’t distracted by alternative will come of age late in their 20’s.
In such circumstances falsification of age not only becomes a basic necessity, but also the most logical thing to do. There is little else to expect of a 30 year old who is faced with matters of personal survival in an environment that treats early 20’s as the maximum entry level.
And this is not a moral argument, it is not about who is wrong or right or who got away with it like (as is rumoured) Nwanko Kanu JJ Okocha or our very own Ibrahim Ssekajja. In any case lest we forget those represent such a narrow statistic it couldn’t be used to tell any story.
I would rather it was a debate about the reasons why footballers find themselves in such circumstances and what we should be doing to change this. The way I see it footballers in this country aren’t lacking in talent but mental attitude.
So the game should be taught in a structured way early enough such that prospects are mentally ready to play on the big stage by the time they hit 20.
This way they have 10 years ahead rather than behind them and will see no need to turn back the hands of time.
And this is why I think the very many academies that have sprang up all over the place bringing some form of structure to pre-teens and teenagers is a good starting point. A lot still has to be accomplished but at the risk of over simplifying the matter a kid of who almost aimlessly runs the field of Gayaza stands very little chance against a kid who starts at say Edgars in the area of mental football development.
As it is we could either promote this or continue to ridicule and speculate about ages of those who eventually break through. And for me choosing the former is a no brainer.