Former Makhuvha Up the Ants defender Mbulaheni Patrick "Gemo" Netshidzivhani.
Former no-nonsense Makhuvha Up The Ants defender Mbulaheni Patrick “Gemo” Netshidzivhani says the standard of soccer in the country at large, but in the Vhembe District in particular, is declining because today’s players are no longer as committed to the game as soccer players used to be in the old days.
Netshidzivhani, who is a traffic officer in Vhembe these days, says that, even though professional ranks attracted little money in the 1980s and early 1990s, the game used to draw thousands of soccer fans to the stadiums every week, while today, very few fans make the effort to go to the stadiums to watch the beautiful game.
Netshidzivhani started playing football when he was still very young, under the tutelage of former international player and coach Owen Da Gama, who was a household name during his heyday with teams such as Casio Dynamos, Moroka Swallows, and several other teams abroad. “I started playing for a team called Makhuvha Blue Birds when I was about seven years old. Each time Da Gama came home to visit, we would go to his house to get tips and coaching. He did a wonderful job with most boys who grew up in the Hamakhuvha area. He taught us to always be disciplined and listen to our coaches, and to respect our elders. We are what we are today because of him,” he said.
Together with “Sputla” Makhuvha, “Danger” Netshiozwi, and Zwiitwaho Netshifhefhe, Netshidzivhani formed the backbone of Makhuvha Up The Ants in the early 1990s. In the local Venda Football Association (VEFA) League, he was the only defender who could stop the rampaging, galloping, and always red-hot former Vondwe XI Bullets, Dynamic, and Black Leopards striker Aifheli “Magic” Ratshivhadelo on his dangerous treks to the goalposts.
Speaking to Limpopo Mirror recently, Netshidzivhani said the main reason for the declining standard of football in the country today was the decision to abandon school sports. “That’s where talented players used to be spotted,” he said.
He echoed what many others from different sporting codes complain about, which is the lack of nurturing of up-and-coming talents, especially in football and boxing. “Some of us were picked at school sports events. But today, it is difficult because kids no longer participate in different sporting codes like before, and we only depend on very few sports academies in the country,” he said.
When asked which was more difficult - running after strikers on the field of play or traffic offenders on the road - he admitted that for traffic officers to maintain order on the roads has become a real challenge. “We are also dealing with problems concerning human life. If someone is driving on the road without a driver’s license or driving an unroadworthy vehicle, it is a matter of life and death. Even though it is tough out there, as traffic officers, we are there to ensure that the public is safe, and that is what we will continue doing for the rest of our careers,” he said.
Date:04 November 2023
Victor Mukwevho Ne-vumbani joined the Mirror during it's inception in 1990. He joined the SABC newsroom in 1995, and was known by listeners as "A u fhedzisela ari". He was a news editor for The Tembisan Newspaper from 2007 to 2015. He rejoined the Limpopo Mirror newspaper in June 2022 as a freelance journalist.