Wednesday, 11 September 2013

One mediocre question for Mike Makaab: Who best represents the future of South African football: Thabo Nthethe, 28 or Siyanda Xulu, 21?

Getting shirty: ProSport International CEO Mike Makaab

MEDIOCRE. Definition: Moderate in quality; ordinary. See synonyms at AVERAGE.

[French médiocre, from Latin mediocris : medius, middle; see medhyo]

Thank you Mr Dick Shunary. So when I said last Saturday that I was shocked the “mediocre Thabo Nthethe” had been selected to play for South Africa ahead of Siyanda Xulu, I was a little miffed when THIS turned up, publicly on my twitter  timeline from Mike Makaab: “I'm surprised at your comment about Nthethe Neal!”

Yup, five days after the event, Makaab chose to chew me out because I’d described Nthethe as average. Born in Bloemfontein, the 28-year-old is a seasoned PSL defender for Bloemfontein Celtic with 15 caps for Bafana Bafana. I have no beef with Makaab’s client or his enduring role with the Siwelele.

I explained the tweet was aimed not at damaging Nthethe but to illustrate my surprise at the decision not to use Siyanda Xulu at centre-back, given that – like the controversially expelled Thulani Serero – he had been flown in (business class, at a cost of over R60,000) from Russia for what might have been a vital World Cup qualifier against Botswana.

Against Nigeria, the centre-back pairing of Nthethe and Tower Mathoho had been picked apart. Xulu hadn’t even had a call from Bafana for that high-powered Madiba birthday friendly, I spoke to him on my Ballz radio football show BOLLOCKZ and Siyanda was mystified by the lack of contact.

Xulu is 21, he moved from Mamelodi Sundowns to FC Rostov last year. At the end of last season he was voted man of the match twice as his unfashionable riverside outfit survived relegation in the high-powered Russian League.

This season, Rostov are sharing second place and a month ago Xulu marked the world’s best-paid player Samuel Eto’o out of the game in a 1-0 win over Anzhi Makhachkala, the oil-rich giants from Dagestan.

Xulu told me how “Sam looked a bit frustrated about not getting a goal” and was roundly praised for his performance in a match which ultimately led to the dismantling of Anzhi’s multi-billion structure and the departure – on a free transfer – of Eto’o to Chelsea last month.

So when Xulu arrived in Durban to find he was consigned to the bench (along with Kamohelo Mokotjo, 22, from Dutch Eredivisie leaders PEC Zwolle) I was fairly surprised. Hence the "mediocre" tweet.

Curiously, Makaab’s ProSport International clients featured. Nthethe - whose Celtic have conceded 10 goals in four games this season - and goal-scorer Bernard Parker both took their places in the side with Parker captaining a VERY mediocre Bafana against Zimbabwe four days later.

Makaab, still in public on my timeline, then pointed out that Andile Jali, another of his clients, was also omitted from the starting line-up. But of course, the Orlando Pirates midfielder came on as a substitute, neatly fulfilling the needs of any player hoping for a move to the UK, where work permits are only handed to those who have played 80 percent of their nation’s competitive fixtures.

And I remember my surprise when Gordon Igesund, another of Makaab’s clients, picked Thamsanqa Gabuza from Golden Arrows for his first squad to play Brazil last year. And there was another of his men, Thanduyise Khuboni from the same club, who appeared a permanent fixture for Bafana during Pitso Mosimane’s turbulent reign.

Unfazed by this apparent good fortune, Makaab - who I respected as a player, coach and agent until this point - then asked me: “Are you suggesting something about selection of the team? You say you're not afraid to speak, so say it - I have nothing to hide.”

 So there it is. Makaab himself has asked the question: does South Africa’s biggest agent play a part in the selection of the Bafana Bafana team? I made no such suggestion. I would never dream of doing so having supporting Gordon Igesund throughout his topsy-turvy, mandate-mangling reign in charge of our beloved Bafana.

Igesund has enough problems on his hands without his agent getting involved in “putting journalists right” for passing mild opinions.

My question (and one you should feel free to answer on or by commenting below) is this: Does the future of Bafana revolve around the 28-year-old Nthethe from Bloemfontein Celtic or the 21-year-old Xulu in Russia?

I think I know the answer to that one.

I have asked Mike if he will appear on BOLLOCKZ! my show on this week, it airs every Thursday from 10am-noon. He has my number. 

You can also follow me on for all the latest sports news… and read my “Neal & Pray” column every Tuesday

BOLLOCKZ! is backed by - have a look at their site for my latest sports betting advice!

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