Playing football requires exceptional skill. A player must be able to offer something unique that sets him apart from the rest. Talent, special ball-dribbling skills, pace, physical fitness and ball control are some of the qualities that make a good footballer.
However, how the player carries themselves off the field is also important. Self-discipline, avoiding trouble with the law and staying away from controversy are some of the traits that also lead to a successful career as a footballer.
There have been instances where players have been forced to hang up their boots due to serious unforeseen circumstances such as life-threatening and debilitating body injuries. It's football and sadly, it happens.
Some players work hard enough to earn their opportunities, yet see their careers come to an end because of the persistent controversy that follows them throughout their careers.
This has been the case with some naturally gifted local players. Many talented players have had the opportunity to showcase their skills and have tasted the glory of playing the beautiful game at the highest level but due to excessive behaviour, it all gets flushed down the drain.
Take Masibusane Zongo for instance, a gifted player who undoubtedly had a bright future when he entered the PSL over a decade ago. His entertaining on-field skills set him apart – he knew how to capture the crowd's attention with his well-timed grandstanding abilities. However, 'Zizou' has been wasting his natural abilities because of his bad habits.
Sadly, very few careers can survive bad behaviour. But even that can be changed if the player is willing and has been given the chance to reform.
During his peak, the midfielder's 'kasi flavour' captured the hearts of adoring football fans and he was playing at the apex of SA football and had international prospects. More than a decade ago, the skilful winger was invited for trials by high-profile EPL side, Tottenham Hotspur. This was not only a proud moment for him but for soccer-loving followers as well.
A few years later, Zongo developed a 'bad boy' reputation by going AWOL, resulting in him missing club commitments often and allegedly finding himself on the wrong side of the law. Fortunately for him, the wayward midfielder has been given several chances to revive his career. However, due to his troubled behaviour, he has not sustained those chances for long.
There have been instances where Zongo has been released from new clubs without even officially kicking the ball, due to vastly reported troubling incidents such as showing up at training reeking of alcohol, or just not showing up at all.
His disappearing antics led to him being club-less for some time. He was then given a chance to professionally revive his career by Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila before the Limpopo-based team was promoted to the DStv Premiership last year. Due to his disobedience, he was without a club again after being released by TTM a few into his time there.
Despite his tumultuous history, Zongo was once again given another lifeline to revive his career earlier this year by the GladAfrica Championship side, Bizana Pondo Chiefs.
This is an opportunity that Zongo should see and treat as a final one. He should hold on to it as if his success even beyond football depends on it. This chance afforded by Pondo Chiefs boss Nathi Mqokiyana should be a stepping stone to resurrect what was once a promising career.
Having recently made his debut for the Eastern Cape-based side, hopefully, this will also be an opportunity for him to self introspect. Many talented yet troubled players have come and gone without being given any chances to repair their careers.
No one knows for sure what the reasons behind Zongo's self-sabotage have been. So it would be unfair to crucify him. The football gods have been lenient on him and keep rewarding him with opportunities to mend his mistakes, and his undeniable talent is a bonus.
It is important to note that in life, we are all fighting battles some won't understand. It's often easy for others to pass judgment without knowing the full story. Zongo is an exceptional player and still has what it takes to rescue his career and most importantly, himself.