Connoisseurs of the local game will tell you that there haven’t been many defenders better than former Orlando Pirates, Tottenham Hotspur and Bafana Bafana star Mbulelo ‘Old John” Mabizela’.
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Mabizela was a defender so accomplished that Tottenham snapped him up from Pirates after his starring role in the Vodacom Challenge. Indeed, it was surely only his off-the-field antics that prevented his talent from reaching its full potential.
Mabizela’s career took off in fine fashion, playing for Pirates and captaining the team while he was also named the Bafana Bafana skipper by Stuart Baxter.
His ordeals, turbulence and mishaps off the pitch are well documented, and after moving to Spurs in 2003, he and Tottenham ultimately settled on a mutual termination of his contract in October 2004. It never got much better for Mabizela after that. He received a six month ban after testing positive for marijuana in 2008, in a period in which he flitted between top flight clubs, his career slowly fading away.
Mabizela, however, clearly still holds a grudge against the media for the way he has been treated. He has certainly been the subject of many articles bemoaning his wasted talent.
“Dogs don’t bark at a stationary car, they bark at a moving one,” Mabizela told Marawa Sports Worldwide.
The former Mamelodi Sundowns defender, suggested that the media had a vendetta against him.
“I would never be able to get into their (reporters) minds and see what they think of me but what I know is what I achieved in football is history. Maybe their intention was to crush the history that I made or they had other motives and intentions that I don’t know of,” he said.
“It is hard to explain because it got so much and I wondered why I was crucified so much. I couldn’t understand – why me? It disturbed me a lot. Some would write about hearsays and they would not consult me,.
He continued: “I understand that I made mistakes and they wrote about that. Everyone makes mistakes and I cannot say they shouldn’t have written about mine because it happens all over the world.
“But the problem was the manner in which it was brandished by the media, it was as though they wanted to finish me off Even though I made mistakes, they degraded me and tarnished my image. It was something that did not sit well with me.”