On any given day, Virgil Vries would have been a shoe-in as a member of the Namibian national team going to Egypt. In fact, the goalkeeper was between the sticks when his native country engaged Zambia, Guinea Bissau and Mozambique in all six qualifying matches.
But when I look at the Namibian final squad headed for Egypt, his name is conspicuously missing and I ask myself why? I can only assume and hazard a guess why he has been omitted from the list of 23 members of the Brave Warriors going to war for their country.
The signs have been there all along and if anybody needed confirmation that all was not well with Vries, the minute his club Kaizer Chiefs terminated his contracted with almost 18-months still remaining, it should have raised alarm bells and not about his abilities, but about his conduct off the field.
I am being careful here and wouldn’t like to find myself facing a lawsuit for defamation. I am also mindful of the fact that footballers are human beings and are prone to commit human errors but almost daily, they seem to forget that their sport is the opium of the people.
They seem to forget that football is the number one spectator sport globally and has reached this pinnacle of popularity because of its ability to generate a certain level of excitement and involvement in the spectator that no other sport can equal.
As a consequence, the minute you start delivering on the field, the spectators naturally embrace you, they adopt you and consider you as their own. You lose your private life and you become a symbol, a kind of inspirational figure to what they wish to be but cannot be. And so, in you they see what they have always aspired to be.
I have heard very disturbing reports about the private life of Vries. And I am aware that he has a right to do whatever he wishes to do in his private life. But sadly, a lot of footballers forget that the minute they hit the headlines, they lose their sense of privacy.
They should ask Hlompho Kekana and he would tell them that to be successful in the game, you must respect your body and your conduct must be exemplary. In fact, Pitso Mosimane reminds us almost daily, that a footballer’s social life determines if he would make a success of his career at Sundowns.
Talking about Mosimane, and as a parent, I have also been devastated by reports that Phakamani Mahlambi has been kicked out of the national team camp, ostensibly because he allegedly reported in a not so stable condition and the coach had no option but to show him the door.
There are thousand other players that, perhaps due to the pressure that comes with their celebrity status, they just cannot handle the fame that comes with it and end up either drinking themselves into a stupor or worse still, engaging in dangerous substances like drugs.
It is not too late for Vries and Mahlambi as well as many others I have not mentioned to reflect and turn their careers around. But they must also be aware that the decision lies in their hands and it must not be instigated by individuals like yours truly.