May i speak freely and boldly?
My social club soccer team is a crazy gang. You find the funny, the twitter king, the slightly alcoholic guy who is ever smiling and that Damu guy I once told you about. And then there is Tso Michu- smart as a whip. Tso Michu is not his full and correct name, which suits me fine because the man is smarter than you, or I, or even your dog.
If your girlfriend happens to be into the really intelligent boy types, then you are tethering on dangerous ground, hence I did not use his real name. This past week, like almost everyone else out there, we were discussing Sebina things (I hope you have not been hiding under a rock) and all matters related thereto. Tso brought up the issue of how as a consumer, the local newspapers were failing him by regularly proving inadequate to report from a different angle than the already known version. As a columnist I opened my ears and closed my mouth; in large part because I secretly acknowledged his words and in some because I too was guilty of his damning charge.
I warn you. This one as Franz Kafka, is one that stabs and wounds. It questions the sport journalist in our country; who is he? What does he set out to do? What are the duties of a sports journalist? Who and what is a sports journalist?
Unlike other professions( my posh lawyer friends will snicker a bit at this), like law, medicine and engineering, who are guided among others by statutes and oaths on what constitutes a lawyer or doctor, it is hard to define who or what a journalist is. Maybe others can come up with such definition. I certainly cannot and have not been subject to the Hippocratic Oath like doctors. I write. I am a columnist, a freelance journalist.
My code is my pen and thoughts and ideas. That is my world. But I certainly have an obligation; ethical and moral to my readers and to the beautiful game; which is linked to being a journalist. During the past weeks and months it has been increasingly clear that our football, our very being, needs some saving. Our beautiful game has been held ransom, at the mercy of a few individuals who purport, privately and collectively, to be the Messiahs.
In the process, the game has been taken away from the people, ripped apart from them and taken hostage by these ‘few good men’. And what has the journalist done? What did I do? We gave you the stories as you knew, as you have heard them on the streets. Were the stories worth your hard-earned cash? Did you learn anything new? I am ashamed to say, to admit in public that we failed in that regard. I, who have in the past, stood on a public pulpit, this very platform, played my part. I failed you too.
I could argue, and rightly so, that I am a freelance scribe, and technically not an employee of this very paper you happen to read. But that will constitute an abrogation of my duty to educate you where I can. It would certainly reek of double standards; that coming from a man who constantly preaches that the education and re-education of our sports fans should precede entertainment.
I plead guilty to Tso Michu’s charge that in relation to the Ofentse Nato saga we should have taught the public about FIFA statutes regarding transfers of players and his further charge regarding our inability to investigate allegations about certain fellows in our game sponsoring their competitors in the Be Mobile Premier League with cash.
Dipsy Selolwane grilled me about the latter allegation a month ago; asking what journalists were doing to investigate such thuggery and Mafioso practices. I am ashamed to say I could not answer him. I who have sworn in your full view that I have the beautiful game’s best interests at heart.
The plains are burning, and with them our football and our consciences; sacrificed on the altars of money, greed and self- interest and such calls for investigate journalism. Journalists are the firefighters. When there is fire, whatever the nature of the blaze, we have to put it out. We are Batman in Gotham, day and night. Our game is dark today, there might be darker days, but we are the light.
The night is dark now, full of terror, fear and uncertainty because the light has gone out. Who put out the light? We did, ladies and gentlemen. The guardians have fallen asleep- a dereliction of their duty; a higher duty to themselves, the people and the game. Journalists are not just on the side of justice. Justice and the pursuit of truth is their name. In short, we are justice. And to be frank, in the past weeks we have been too silent, sitting on the sidelines and telling general information, one could readily find lying on the street.
I tell you what, the market forces, the consumers are itching for a different angle regarding the sports stories we feed them. They want detailed reporting and analysis because they part with their monies for such. They trust our ability to break stories and dig further than the general tidbits of information they might have come across on their own.
I feel that in that respect, we have not lived up to their standards and those of investigate journalism. So why do they have to pay for our papers? Why do they have to read ‘Rose Coloured Glasses’?
A few weeks ago a certain friend, Yandani Boko congratulated me on what he termed “an article on another level”. To refuse praise is to want to be praised twice over but I fear I must refuse your praise dear friend. I am not worthy of such -not yet. To live up to the people’s lofty expectations and yours too, I must do better. I cannot finger what better is but I know what it is and all of you certainly do. All those articles about the Barcelonas and Diego Simeones of this world count for nothing if I am blind to our game’s needs here at home, at my very doorstep.
Spain or England do not know me, they will not remember me, my name or works but you dear fellows will. You will remember me, my faults and omissions.
In our game, journalists should be the judge, the jury and the executioner. In all three duties, we have fallen short. I am not asking for vengeance or witch-hunts but justice, truth and fair reporting. It is a lot to ask but it is our job is it not? The people, to whom we owe a great service, to whom we remain eternally indebted, both as consumers and a trustee of our football, deserve better from us. There was a not more humiliating experience when that fellow Tso remarked that, “foreign news agencies could have given us a better coverage of the Nato case.”
I hate to say it but he was right. It was a remark that was a bullet to the heart; raw, full of anger, one that stabs and wounds. So here I am, and you too my fellow scribes. The die is cast and the number showing is not in our favour. We have a choice, as in all other things; to listen to the people or attempt to shape them to our side- a doomed exercise so far! In the coming months, some of us will walk in front of thousands of those very people who accuse us.
On that night, before flashing cameras and beaming lights, one of us will get a gong for being the best this year among us. I hope he or she will be a worthy winner and such serve as a reminder of the enormity of our jobs. That moment, as should be every other day, should spur us to strive to be the best we can be. We are capable of such, that much I know.
These are dark times for our football but that is much more tolerable than our silence and inability to speak out and hound out those who do not stand on the side of justice. We hold that power in our pens. Are the voices of the people not the voice of God? Are we so base as to refuse to heed God? Dear friend, next time the layman reads your story, please, rise above his level. Give him a reason to buy your paper. With that money she buys your paper, she could have taken two or more kombis, or bought a loaf of bread for the children- twenty slices, but she chose your story instead. The man or woman chose our wonderful work or mediocrity.
I have spoken and these I affirm to be my words. If anyone stands slighted by them, let him speak for him have I offended! If there be one who is in disagreement, fair enough, speak your heart, I have spoken mine.