|OPEN TWARFARE: today's Daily Sun|
ROBERT MARAWA and I first spoke on the phone in a car park in Tshwane after the USA had beaten Algeria in the 2010 World Cup. Quite a night that, late goal, much dancing.
Beverly Maphangwa, Rob’s trusty producer, had got my number from Sizwe Mabena, the SABC commentator I’d met when still a British-based journalist at the infamous Bafana Bafana 5-0 warm-up against Guatamala in Polokwane.
Though contracted to 702 and Cape Talk for the duration of the World Cup, I spoke to Robert because I’d heard his show on MetroFM had a growing listenership. It was a good live chat. Lots of positive feedback.
Our relationship continued for dozens of interviews, a memorable night in Abu Dhabi plus a few visits to his SABC studio and a number of appearances on Thursday Night Live on SuperSport. I still have two coffee mugs with Rob’s mug on.
In the midst of that, there was an awful night when, after many Marawa interviews and a couple of SABC1 television appearances on a Sunday (again, free of charge, last minute) Rob and Bev said they had an analysts’ job for me. I was to be the “Gary Bailey of the SABC”. They told me I just had to attend a screen test, a mere formality as “you’ve got the job”.
When I turned up at Auckland Park, I chatted with the lads I knew and prepared for my appearance, only for a large, fat man I didn’t know to come in and tell me in terse terms: “Are you Neal Collins? Please leave. There is no screen test.”
I attempted to object but found myself in the car park, pretty upset, with Bev and Rob telling me on the phone it was out of their hands, but they would sort it out. They never did.
Curious. Do you remember Abu Dhabi Robert? When they were pretty mean to you at the Laureus Awards and you couldn’t grab any guests off the red carpet? I was working for The National in 2011, I had all-area access because I was with the government newspaper. I went out and spoke to Morgan Freeman, Zinedane Zidane and Martin Kaymer, then came scrambling back to tell you what they’d said.
We sat there for a few hours in a dark room away from the glitzy ceremony, trying to keep the show lively, checking the various winners off the television feed. We had a high old time. The next morning we chatted with Patrick Vieira and Lucas Radebe after a celebrity football game. I thought it was fun.
Wherever I was in those days, as I moved from the UK back to South Africa via Abu Dhabi, I’d take your calls. Crouching behind the stands at the Wycombe Wanderers stadium in Buckinghamshire, hiding under tables from the Highveld rain, talking to you in restaurants, fibbing to my production team to have a quick chat with you and Danny Jordaan one night while I went for “a cigarette break”.
Then, when I got settled in South Africa and began working first for News24 then 702, the calls lessened. And stopped. I was no longer required. Robert and I never fell out, just drifted apart. I guess he had better people to call, though many on twitter asked what had happened.
When Robert fell out with some high-ups and failed to gain an invite to the PSL awards at Gold Reef City few years ago, I stood up for him, telling former PSL PRO Altaaf Khazi publicly on twitter I wouldn’t attend unless Mr Marawa was invited. It worked. Robert got his invite, though he didn’t attend.
Occasionally I’d compliment Robert on his many awards and when I heard a great interview on his show – Jimmy Tau and Makhaya Nthini spring to mind – I’d check it was okay to use the quotes and put them on my blog with a credit to spread the word about South Africa’s top sports radio programme.
But I could tell the attitude was changing. Robert was becoming BIG. He rarely replied to my tweets, there were a couple of acid comments but last week, when I pointed out the Capital One Cup at Wembley took place on March 1 – we share that as our birth date – he offered a pleasant response.
|OUCH! Some of Rob's tweets|
Then on Monday, Marawa announced he was having Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba on his show for “a full post-mortem” of our dismal failure at AFCON 2015. The tweets began to fly. Not mine, I hasten to add. For hours, tweeps complained that Marawa had let Shakes off lightly, that he was allowing the former AmaJita coach to avoid answering questions.
I retweeted a couple of those messages while I was writing a story about Kamohelo Mokotjo and preparing for my own radio show. I asked Rob and then producer Bev if I could have a podcast of the interview. Robert didn’t reply. Bev did. But no link was forthcoming.
Late in the night, after my late-night hour of football on Jacaranda FM, yet another tweet came in denouncing the interview. I said: “Mate, people like Bareng-Batho Kortjaas (who wrote in the Sunday Time that anybody questioning Shakes was being racist) and Robert Marawa would NEVER ask a difficult question. Football is not important to them.”
Admittedly, it was a bit strong. It had been a long day. I grow weary of people defending a coach who told us he would win AFCON 2015 but came home with one point and talked about his “success”, who claims using three goalkeepers in three games was “a plan”.
I expected a strong response, but not the personal slurs Marawa delivered in an hour-long tirade. He accused me of being on “cheap drugs” of being “a bitter old fool” and perhaps the one that hurt the most: “Never been "friends" with this human being!!!"
I replied in kind of course. The missus, a lawyer, said I shouldn’t have. But men are men. Football men are even worse. The next morning, Sunday Times sports editor BBK issued a clear threat on twitter and I told him to grow up.
I know, because of my accent, there are football writers who resent me and my freedom to tell the truth, to tell it EXACTLY as I see it. I did it with Gordon Igesund and Shakes Mashaba. I’ve done it with Irvin Khoza and Bobby Motaung. My journalism? Support when they’re doing the right thing, ask questions when they fail, when they lie, when they select has-beens and axe our best players.
But let me end this by drawing on 30 years of sports journalism both here and abroad: you don’t reply to footballing opinions with personal insults and abuse. Particularly when the person you’re abusing can point to numerous occasions where – without any hope of payment – that person was prepared to help you out.
To Marawa, BBK and the “yes men” who blocked me – weeks ago – on the @bafanabafana and @safa_net twitter accounts, I have this warning. Your conduct has been taken to a higher level. High ranking SAFA members are talking as we speak before Saturday’s showdown with Shakes which may be tougher than the “yes men” expect.
There is a way of behaving when you’re a public figure Rob. David Kekana, another SABC analyst, did much the same when I rightly drew attention to his racism against Bafana goalkeeper Darren Keet. He also threw accusations and personal insults before issuing an apology.
This time, I don’t want an apology. I don’t seek reconciliation with a man capable of stooping so low. I just hope you – and others reading this – will stop for a second and consider who you are, what you stand for.
There must be room for different opinions from the little people. Most of my problems come from retweets rather than my own semi-serious one-liners. Argue against them with all your might, but try to avoid defamatory remarks, personal insults and – this is for the bloke in the cap – violence.
You know it makes sense. You have my number Mr Marawa. Your call.