Source [www. citypress.co.za]
In 1990, on the eve of the World Cup quarter final between host nation Italy and Argentina, Diego Maradona ended a press conference with this statement – “Fellow Neapolitans, remember this, for one day in a year these people (the Italians from the north parts) want your support. But for the rest of the year they call you Africans.” The very next day, when he took the field dressed in the colours of the Argentine national team, the stadium in Napoli was split in half. Right there, Diego Armando Maradona became a HERO.
In that moment, Maradona did not become a HERO for more than his enchanting display of God-given talent. He did not become a HERO for his gutsy statement. He became a HERO simply because, the world needs HEROS.
Even before television, comic books turned Superman and Batman – imaginary super-humans clad in capes, under pants and over sized boots into HEROS. Why, because even then, the world needed HEROS! A lot of things may have changed about the world since then, but that simple little fact has not changed. The only difference is back when Shaka Zulu, Alexandra the Great and Napoleon Bonaparte fitted snugly in that classification box, HEROS were more mature and some could say, capable of dealing with this adoration with greater ease. Perhaps, one could go a step further and say; it was far easier for them to be HEROS. No camera stuck in their face 24/7, reporters and social media platforms commenting on anything from their performance to their outfits.
However, in the second decade of the new millennium a time where there are fewer wars to fight and violence is met with detestation. A time where movies have stolen our ability to imagine things; many people look to sport for hero-worship. Because when life is tough, bills are piling up and the future is uncertain; it soothes the heart to look up and see a man throwing one leg before the other in relentless pursuit of the finish line. The image alone is enough to inspire us to push on.
The idea of sports personalities being HEROES isn’t new, although the world is a lot more complicated than the days when Jomo Sono kicked a ball. Today with a few clicks of the mouse news spread worldwide almost instantaneously, while direct access to a sports personality via Facebook and Twitter has the ability to catapult an introverted soul into mega super-stardom. All of a sudden, a person who should only be celebrated for his ability to run, jump or climb now becomes revered as a role model; and also rewarded financially and otherwise for the attention he or she commands. Never mind the fact this small group of people by virtue of their talent, are getting younger and younger by the day.
Senzo Meyiwa fell snugly in that box. However, it took one fateful night with his body lying lifeless in a pool of blood which seeped through his wounds like a secret, for a nation to stand still and take note. Senzo Meyiwa was a quintessential personification of the unlimited heights a meritocratic society can achieve. By the time of his demise he was already adorned with a plethora of accolades beyond what was imaginable. It took this tragic event for us to remember that Senzo Meyiwa was one of a special group of people who have had the privilege to represent the country at from the under-17, under-20, under-23 all the way to the senior team. He was pivotal in the team that won the treble twice with Orlando Pirates FC. He is one of two players in South African football history to have played 51 matches in a season. Besides being a Captain of the national team, but Senzo will remain the only Bafana Bafana Goalkeeper not to have conceded a goal in a competitive match. Senzo did all of this by the age of 27. No one game him anything, Senzo had to earn every single one of those achievements on merit. He had to work his way up to reach those heights, and I suspect somewhere amidst the commotion about his death, let that be the penny that drops as his obituary is broadcasted on multiple platforms.
As the long-armed judicial mechanism grabs hold of the facts, and systematically interrogates the crevices of this dark cave called the truth. The nation will find itself dealing with the telling reality that is Senzo Meyiwa’s real life when the PR machine is turned off; in the same way we did with Oscar Pistorius Tiger Woods, OJ Simpson, Lance Armstrong and Hansie Cronje. As the flames that lit the candles accompanying his coffin are extinguished, I hope that the inspirational illumination that is Senzo Meyiwa’s record is not dimmed with every the fall of the preceding judges’ hammer. I hope when it is all said and done, we will remember that – Our Senzo was a Hero.
Just a thought!
The tempest prognosticator,
Themba A Dikgale