The effects of booze on soccer

The eloquent Steve Komphela offered a profound response to why players go off the rails despite the well documented troubles of players like Jabu Mahlangu, Lerato Chabangu and Mbulelo Mabizela.

The three talented players entertained millions with their skills, but their alcohol abuse problem derailed their careers and stunted their growth. Mahlangu, a notorious drinker during his playing days, delivered a moving speech on Thursday at Diageo’s offices in Midrand during the company’s Drive Dry campaign to promote responsible drinking and fighting the scourge of drunk driving.

Mahlangu explained that he grew up in a family of alcoholics where he witnessed his father abuse his mother. For him, alcohol was an escape, a way to forget the trouble at home. But his escape ended up being his crutch even when his life was better after signing a contract with Kaizer Chiefs.

Mahlangu’s alcohol abuse and drug addiction short-lived his career. But he found a way to bounce back and live a clean life. He now uses his tale to caution players against the problem, but despite that there are still players who struggle with alcohol abuse.

“It’s lack of focus and also forgetting too quick and too fast,” Golden Arrows coach Steve Komphela said.

“How often have you promised yourself that my New Year’s resolution is that I am going to gym, and I am going to do one, two three but you become comfortable and you stop? My stages of life are such that you must be big on small things. You must always have a high level of focus, because without focus you are distracted and when you are distracted you are confused.

"What I say to them, keep reminding yourself what contract you have with yourself. Don’t forget what you said to yourself and have honour that the promise I made to myself is only words, but I am going to act on it. But that comes with an enlightenment.”

Komphela and Mahlangu were part of a panel that included four-time league winner Gordon Igesund, Chiefs legend Doctor Khumalo, Mamelodi Sundowns captain Hlompho Kekana and SuperSport United’s Teboho Mokoena.

They shared their stories, their upbringing and how they navigated the challenges they faced. Mokoena was left emotional by Mahlangu’s words, remembering the domestic abuse he experienced at his home from his father abusing his mother.

“Jabu’s story is scary,” Kekana said. “But for me, I should take lessons out of that story. There are certain things that he went through and not many people can survive those challenges. As people we need to look at how he managed to survive. Like he said, he came from a very abusive family and there is a reason why people do certain things. I should take lessons from this to become a better brother and father and try to help whoever is going to need help.”

Kekana called for clubs to give players people they can speak with to discuss their professional and personal challenges so that they can navigate their way through life. The issue of alcohol abuse is a societal one, with many causes – whether it’s to fit in, an alcohol abuse history, mixing with the wrong crowd and struggling to cope with the fame and money that they have suddenly been thrust with.

“You must care as a coach,” Igesund said. “You shouldn’t do it just because you have to, but you must care about what is happening in their lives. That way you will be able to know what’s happening in their lives and be able to be in a situation where they can open up to you.”

Bonginkosi Ndadene 

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