By Andile Dladla & Mandla Dladla
A general manager in football can best be described as a lonely, thankless job where you are sometimes damned blamed even for tasks that are not under your jurisdiction.
You are quite often the scape goat for failing to sign quality players. You are supposed to shoulder the blame if a team does not have a proper scouting structure in place.
Ask former Bidvest University manager Costa Bellos and he will narrate heart-breaking tales about the lot of a football team manager, yet he confess to have embraced and enjoyed his responsibilities.
“I have worked successfully at teams like Polokwane City FC and Alexandra United FC,” says Bellos.
And perhaps his success can be traced to the fact that he is multilingual and can speak various South African languages which enables him to communicate easily with people from different backgrounds.
Bellos is of Greek descent, but can fluently speak English, IsiZulu and Sesotho.
“Language is the key and other people didn’t have that interest like I did. I loved to be able to sit down with a player and converse with him in his home language.
“Communicating with a player at that level opened the doors for me to not only learn the languages but also the culture and the traditions and what was taboo in certain cultures.”
Bellos spent many years in South Africa’s different townships and the passion to learn the different cultures drove him to where he just loved communicating with people on different levels.
“It simply gives you access to so much more when you are able to communicate with people at their level and in a language that they understand.
“My home language is Greek. The time I spent with players triggered this desire to learn more about their backgrounds.
“As a general manager your responsibilities are so much more. You ensure that there is efficient and effective running at all operations of the club at all times, from the marketing right down to making sure that all staff members have contracts.
“You are involved in the negotiations, buying and selling of players. You develop programs to improve the club administratively as well as externally.
“Your additional duties includes co-ordinating and representing the team at the PSL and at various other meetings that have to do with marketing or with the sponsors.
“You cannot ignore the duties of liaising with team officials, suppliers as well as other key stakeholders.”
The former Wits team manager who is also known as Mthakathi (Witchdoctor) within the football fraternity says it’s different when you are a general manager in comparison to the role of team manager.
“You are basically in charge of the technical team as a team manager while playing the role of the middle man between the technical team and the administrative side of the game.
“In addition to your duties, you must also attend all training sessions because you have to make sure that all the needs of the players are met.”
Bellos explained that you have to also communication at all times with the CEO and Director of football in order to identify to ensure all the needs of the players are taken care of, including logistics as far as traveling is concerned.
Prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, Bellos was working for a community radio station called the New Pan Hellenic voice which is a Greek community radio station in South Africa.
FIFA was looking for commentators for visually challenged people. He applied and was called for an interview out of which he was chosen amongst hundreds of other applicants in Gauteng.
“FIFA had five hundred people at each World Cup match and gave them earphones with a radio frequency at the stadium and they listened as we described the game for them,” explains Bellos.
“That was an amazing experience as I ended up being chosen to do both the opening and closing ceremonies. It was the greatest moments I’ll never forget in my life.”
Bellos and many others have been affected by the sale of Bidvest to a Limpopo businessman who relocated the club to Thohoyandou.
“It becomes very difficult for the administrators to move to another province. It is not as easy as a football player or coach because they move around a lot and there are younger players that do not have families yet.
“Soccer players do not stay long at a football club and they are constantly on a move to another club which could be in another province.
“It is also devastating and a crushing blow to supporters whose club gets sold and it changes its official name, leaving supporters with nothing else to support but to embrace and adopt a team out of necessity.”
Bellos said if you want to become an administrator you have to study not only sports management but open yourself to marketing, communication and management in general.