Ebrahim Moosa – Cii News | 29 January 2013
With the nation’s hopes pinned on Bafana Bafana for success at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations(Afcon), rare insights into the culture pervading local football have emerged from a veteran of the national squad that scooped up the continental title in 1996.
Speaking exclusively to Cii Radio, Zane Moosa, an observant Muslim who earned five caps for the South African side between 1992 and 1996, reminisced fondly of his days spent with the national squad. “Being selected for the national team is the ultimate for any player. It was an honour and an experience that I will always cherish,” he said in the 2011 interview. The star midfielder however hinted that his international performances did leave much room for improvement. “To be honest, in terms of international football I didn’t really make the grade. There was still much more I could achieve, I didn’t truly fulfill my potential.”
In a colourful career spanning 3 continents, the Marabastad born legend played for the likes of local giants such as Sundowns and Pirates, as well as Al-Ittihad, the oldest football club in Saudi Arabia. He began playing his football as a child with a local team in Laudium; his skills catching the eye of management at PSL club Wits University whilst he was still a scholar. With an offer of a full university scholarship he was co-opted into the Wits first team, and in 1986 a 17 year old Moosa propelled himself onto the national soccer scene.
Famed for his skill and speed, he scooped the PSL’s top honour, the Footballer of Year, as well as the Player’s Player of the Year award in 1990. Moosa also won his way into the national squad for its very first international fixture following South Africa’s re-entry into the international football arena in 1992.
In retrospect, Moosa says his runaway success did not spare him the fair share of drawbacks too. Despite being immensely popular with the fans, he claims his Indian descent didn’t always bode well for him in a sport, which in South Africa is largely dominated by blacks. There were personality clashes too. “Not everyone likes you,” he noted. “Sometimes they don’t pass the ball when you are in a good position. There is envy. Now, when you’re playing on the wings, if you don’t get service – you’re out of the game. You almost stand there like a linesman or assistant referee. These are some of the things that disappoint me about the beautiful game.”
Moosa says he is troubled by the difficulties he perceives Indians and Coloured players encountering today when attempting to integrate into some of the country’s larger sides. Despite claims of equal opportunity, he alleges that the playing field is not always equal. “What’s the point in developing players, if when they reach a certain age they don’t have a team to embrace their talent? It seems as if the odds are stacked against them,” he lamented.
Although a succession of recurring injuries did significantly hamper his on-field progress, Moosa says it was the complexities of marrying faith with career that ultimately blew the whistle on his game. “The environment in football is not very conducive for an observant Muslim. For me there were too many negatives. I don’t believe things have changed much since then.” Despite this, Moosa says his observance of Salaah and fasting were never compromised. “You can exercise self discipline and self control: When it was time for Salaah, you try to pray before the game. If the time entered during the game, you perform it before the time elapses. These are things you can manage if you are keen on following the religion. Even fasting. Believe it or not – I used to feel better while I was fasting. It is a state of mind. Some people feel as if when you fast, you are weak. But I even played a charity cup with two games whilst fasting- Pirates in the morning and Chiefs in the finals that very afternoon with little physical strain.”
The local practice of consulting traditional healers for luck in games however, proved too much for Moosa. According to him players have no choice but to conform to the pre-game ritual of utilising Muti or traditional medicine from Sangomas. “It is stuffed into your jerseys and smells very bad. The whole environment is really difficult,” he said.
Despite tolerating it at first, Moosa said the ritual eventually took its toll on him. “You don’t enjoy you game. You don’t know what they are doing and they don’t respect your preferences. Even if you tell them you are a Muslim, it has no effect. Even if you don’t want it, they just put it your jersey and what do you do? You have to wear it. It is part of the uniform. Sometimes you feel like an outcast. You can enjoy lighter moments with fellow players, but if you do not conform to all their cultural norms, they begin to develop another opinion of you.”
Last June, the South African Football Association (SAFA) paid a sangoma R90 000, setting the stage for a huge debate on the use of black magic in the country’s football. The governing body initially paid S’bonelo Madela only R10 000 of the agreed-upon R100 000. But when SAFA reneged on the deal, Madela sensationally declared that the South African national football team would not win any game until the money had been paid. He said he had locked up all the goals in a bottle of muti. It was only last June, after a series of poor performances, that SAFA finally decided to settle Madela’s debt.
Last week, Reuben Matewu, a herbalist from the Eastern Cape, touted his muti as the panacea to Bafana’s goalscoring drought.
“I can help Bafana Bafana for free if they want and I will do that for the first three matches,” Matewu told a regional radio station, as reported by The Star .
“I’m not like those people who use bad muti (traditional medicine), I will only use herbs which are easily available here in South Africa.”
Matewu says he will start charging for his services only “when” South Africa qualify for the knockout stages.Afcon, African Cup of Nations, Bafana Bafana, Chiefs, Ebrahim Moosa, Football, Herbalist, Muti, Pirates, SAFA, Sangoma, Soccer, Sundowns, Wits, Zain Moosa, Zane Moosa