Nyathi – an ex-Pirates and Chiefs star, who later went on to play across Europe in Spain, Switzerland, Italy and Turkey, before hanging up his boots in the mid-2000s – was addressing a delegation at SAFA House during a meeting to discuss ways to aid South African footballers post-retirement.
The untimely passing of fellow Bafana legend Phil ‘Chippa’ Masinga re-opened the conversation around helping footballers sustain themselves beyond their playing days, and SAFA president Danny Jordaan thus invited various football representative bodies to engage in the discussion.
Nyathi, who has since taken up coaching as a profession and also represents the South African Masters and Legends Football Association (SAMLFA), feels former players are discriminated against and deemed unworthy of positions at the likes of Pirates and Chiefs, and called on SAFA to utilise these products of the local game.
“The PSL will always be a profit-making industry, but not out national institution. SAFA will always be a human-driven development institution, where we need to have our culture that shows who we are,” said Nyathi.
“We should be proud, winning or losing, of being South Africans. The brand that we need; that reflects and stimulates who we are as South Africans; that identity.
“We can’t be in a new democracy and say we want to shape our future and yet we still rely on those who disagree with shaping us to shape us. I don’t want to be harsh but just realistic.
“The PSL has a big problem because they are profit-driven. Pirates will never have a [truly South African] culture because they can hire from Japan, Russia, everywhere, but they will never have an identity. It’s the same with Chiefs.
“Maybe Sundowns has Pitso Mosimane – it looks good; maybe Cape Town City has Benni McCarthy – it looks good, but we as South Africa must have our own, who can understand and build our brand.
“It doesn’t matter how long it takes, what matters is who are we trying to become? It’s not about being profit-driven but being human-driven – that is the feeling I have.
“And there are opportunities. I don’t think there are many challenges, it’s just to recognise how we can fast track the process to ensure that those who understand, who came from this university, if we can call it that, understand what their role in this society, in this democracy and in this football is.
“They [former players] mustn’t run around trying to get a job; they must go with a purpose of adding value. If I don’t like something, I don’t do it, no matter how much money you give me. But if I do something, I do it with my heart, my mind and my soul – that’s who I am.”
The meeting culminated in the establishment of a working group, which comprises members from SAFCA, SAFPU, SAMLFA, SAFA, government and prominent people, that will further study ways to help retired players.