OPINION | Bongani Zungu not only let himself down, but has set SA football back too | Sport


Rangers Bongani Zungu leaves the field of play during the Betfred Cup, Quarter Final at St Mirren Park.

  • Bafana Bafana midfielder has not only let himself down after his Covid-19 breach, but has damaged the reputation of SA footballers.
  • Big names such as manager Steven Gerrard and Kenny Dalglish have both been scathing of Zungu’s actions.
  • Former player Kris Boyd says that Zungu has been a major disappointment and is likely to never wear a Rangers jersey again.

Bafana Bafana midfielder Bongani Zungu will be feeling like he has let himself down following being suspended by Rangers for his recent breach of Covid-19 regulations. 

Zungu suffered the ignominy of being publicly berated by a “let down” Rangers manager, Steven Gerrard, as one of five squad members who attended a gathering on 14 February.

Following an investigation, the manager confirmed the players breached strict lockdown rules after a party was broken up by police in the early hours of that Sunday morning.

Gerrard then virtually signalled the end of the South African’s loan-spell and when asked if Zungu’s time at Rangers had ended, the Liverpool legend responded: “I think that would be fair to say, yes.”

“That will take care of itself and we’ll move forward with the players who have remained professional and want to be part of a successful team,” Gerrard added.

It brings to an end a swift conclusion to a disastrous spell for Zungu at Ibrox in a move that had promised so much potential on his 5 October signing.

At his unveiling an excited Gerrard had this to say on the club’s new midfield acquisition: “Bongani fits the profile of player that adds further strength and depth to our midfield. We made it clear that we wanted a player who will enhance our squad and starting XI.

“We believe Bongani does this.

“We wanted a dominant midfielder with the right profile who can enhance the team and complement other players we have. We have monitored this situation all summer and now feel it’s the right time.

An excited Zungu, himself said: “The chance to play for such a big club especially in European competitions is very exciting for me.

“I can’t wait to fly to Scotland and meet my new team-mates. I know that I will settle in Glasgow and am looking forward to getting started as soon as possible.

“I really want the fans to be proud of my performances and will always give 100% for my new team.

“Rangers is a global club and I know there are already many supporters across Africa. I am looking forward to playing in front of a big crowd and audiences across the world.”

Zungu’s dream move has now irrefutably turned into a nightmare.

A large part of the answer to the profound riddle into the decline of SA football on the African continent over the past 20 years can be unfortunately highlighted by Zungu’s action – the attitude of the modern local footballer.

South Africa’s football history is rich, going from Bafana teams that included legends such as Lucas Radebe, Phil Masinga and Shaun Bartlett to later squads with Benni McCarthy, Steven Pienaar and Quinton Fortune, who all made a name for themselves in the Premier League.

Today, before the recent arrival of Percy Tau at Brighton, there has been no real South African star on the European stage.

There have long been accusations made by former players of today’s players being too comfortable in the PSL after gaining new-found stardom and riches.

It’s believed to have resulted in our players having lost the drive to take that step up to further their careers and shine on the biggest stage in Europe.

Former PSL Player of the Season, Lebogang Manyama lasted just one season in Turkey. Young striker Lyle Foster, who featured alongside the likes of Cesc Fabregas at Monaco, left similarly after one season for Portugal.

We can now add Zungu to that list of South African players who have not only highlighted that lack of drive on the pitch, but also the off-field issues that South African footballers are beset by.

All footballers party. Gerrard himself, like with other Premier League legends such as Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and even the seemingly clean-cut Frank Lampard, can party with the best of them.

But what those players were smart enough to do is make sure that they firstly performed on the pitch and chose the right time to let their hair down.

Zungu has foolishly thrown his opportunity away to work under a legend such as Gerrard to party with kids aged between 19-21.

Scotland legend Kenny Dalglish raged at the five players for “bringing negativity to the door” of the club while Rangers are on the brink of clinching a league title.

“For me, it doesn’t matter what age you are, you still know when something is wrong,” he said.

“Had they gone to visit a grandparent, it would still have been wrong – but you could have half understood it.

“But a party? Come on.”

Former Rangers striker and the top goalscorer in Scottish Premier League history, Kris Boyd was also scathing of Zungu.

“I’d be very surprised if you see him in a Rangers jersey again,” he said.

“He’s been a major disappointment since he’s came to the football club and this just tops it all off.”

We should always try to be positive but sometimes in a situation such as this, there really are no positives.

Hopefully, a lesson has been learnt, not only by Zungu but by other young SA footballers, that their actions have consequences and they should accept accountability for these actions.

Sometimes the consequences are greater than they even realise.

Baden Gillion is a journalist at Sport24 …

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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