DURBAN – There was a massive announcement this week, with the news that Siyabonga Nomvethe was calling time on his illustrious career. It’s not a name that rolls off the millennial’s tongue, but mere mention of the poacher used to inspire fear across South Africa.
And even in the toughest leagues around the world, like the Old School Serie A. Nomvethe played for Bari, at a time when Italian defenders were so uncompromising that a knee in the back of a striker was considered polite.
Little Nomvethe went there, and carved a niche. They still know him only too well. Perhaps better than they know him in parts of South Africa. He has done the hard yards, gone to two World Cups and been a brilliant servant for South African football.
And yet, as Nomvethe goes into the sunset after two decades of memories, there is a great sadness. The first part of the problem is that he is not even recognised by some of the newbie fans and even players in the modern game.
When he started, the millions that are now earned by very pampered puzzlers were but a dream. At his fearsome best, as the sharp point of a triangle that involved Sibusiso Zuma and Phumlani Mhkize, Nomvethe was a riot.
That African Wanderers side conjured up twisted blood across the league, their relentless attack a source of fear and envy across South Africa. Those were the days. He touched similar heights at Moroka Swallows, with the kind of predatory instincts that the current Bafana set-up would kill for.
Boy, when he was good, he was intoxicatingly good. But that wasn’t enough for him, even as he made a habit of reinventing himself at different clubs. By the time he came to AmaZulu, back in his beloved KZN, he was an elder statesman. His discipline and dedication was an example, and his instinctive eye for goal an inspiration.
Despite all that, and it is an awful lot, Nomvethe leaves the game with little to show for it. He will have to do work beyond this year; solid endeavour at that. Incredibly, all those salaries and bonuses are now here to be seen, his body of work reduced to nothing but a highlights reel.
He must look and shake his head at the millions swirling around the game now. Sadly, he is also an example of trusting the wrong people in the game. His money has evaporated, in the hands of social chameleons, and he can never get that back.
How terrifically sad. How very sad that he can’t put his fabled feet up, and kick back in a fancy house with his family. He deserves that much, but life has always told us that we don’t always get what we deserve. Hopefully, that nous and humility is not lost, and he goes on to pass his knowledge to the next generation.