Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
THE old warhorses, from 35-year-old Edward Sadomba’s sensational return to Dynamos to 46-year-old Egyptian World Cup record-breaking goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary ending his retirement from international football, have been grabbing headlines in recent days.
And, they have now been joined under the spotlight by veteran goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini, who turns 35 on July 17 this year, as clouds of doom gather over the South African PSL with its chairman, Irvin Khoza, dropping a bombshell yesterday the continent’s richest top-flight league could collapse.
The league has become a home for scores of Zimbabwean professional footballers, including Kapini, who is now in his 13th season there but Khoza emerged from an extraordinary Board of Governors meeting in Johannesburg to say their capacity to keep splashing the money was not under serious threat.
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa want to amend their public broadcast regulations, to include the country’s football, and this could have a huge effect on the regulation of the free-to-air rights of sport in the Rainbow Nation and cripple the PSL who will forfeit their power to independently sell the broadcast rights of their league.
The South African PSL agreed a new multi-billion rand deal with SuperSport last month and Khoza said the clubs could lose as much as 80 percent of their annual revenue leading to a collapse of the organisation.
“ICASA wants to do this after the hard work we have put in? Players would not be getting paid as much if it was not for our current funding model. The current broadcast deal took work and time,” Khoza told the South African media yesterday.
“We did not break the law. Everything we did was within the framework. We did the work necessary. The broadcast deal has had an enormous impact on the state of SA football. Without it the PSL dies.
“Without adequate funding, this industry as we know it will collapse and will be back to what it was back in the 1980s. Clubs will cut support staff to the bone and our grant of R11m to SAFA will no longer be available.
“I hope this is an error from ICASA, but it is also a form of exclusion. They did not consult or try to understand our industry.
“We will defend ourselves rigorously. We will exhaust all options available to us. If it is not resolved, we will shut down the PSL.”
Amid all this drama, Kapini, who has had spells at local clubs Black Aces and Highlanders and South African teams Platinum Stars, Amazulu and Highlands Park in a 19-year career, continues to go strong.
The goalkeeper says the days when footballers were judged by their ages — and deemed excess baggage once they got past 30 years — have long disappeared.
He says things have changed in the past few years, with improvements in sports science, and footballers can now play for a longer period.
Yesterday, another member of the Thirty-Something Brigade in the South African Premiership, Ovidy Karuru, scored as Amazulu stunned Mamelodi Sundowns 2-0 in a league match.
Kapini singled out Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo’s big-money move to Juventus, at the age of 33, and Siphiwe Tshabalala’s break into European football at the age of 34 as examples of the changing world.
“This issue of dismissing players based on age is not only confined to South Africa but rather the COSAFA region,’’ Kapini told the latest edition of Kick-Off Magazine, where he is one of the thirty-something players in the South African Premiership who added their voice to the debate.
“When you turn 30, there is immediately a tendency of saying you are no longer as effective as you used to be.
“Just to prove how wrong that mindset is, Siphiwe Tshbalala got his move to Turkey just before he turned 34, which shows in Europe they appreciate your maturity in football, whilst here we are only concerned about pushing players out based on age.
“Of course, with age your speed decreases, but your football intelligence becomes better.
“What is important is performance more than age. Ronaldo is 33, but Juventus paid massive money to get him from Madrid because they value his performance more than age. Here in Africa all we ever make noise about is the age of players and how long someone has been playing.
“It shouldn’t matter that I was once teammates with Willem Jackson just like it shouldn’t be an issue that Itumeleng Khune played with (Shaun) Bartlett.
In Africa we have people with an obsession with pushing players down.’’
He insists science has changed all that.
“Nowadays there is the undergarment GPS player-tracking system used which gives detailed insight into individual’s aspects like heart rate and fatigue,” he said.
‘’So they no longer need to judge players based on the naked eye or age. With the use of technology you get to know when a player needs rest, it is amazing how technology has come into the game.’’
Kapini is likely to point to the decision by legendary Egyptian goalkeeper El-Hadary, to end his international football retirement, as another example of the changing world.
El-Hadary became the oldest footballer to feature in a World Cup match when he kept goals for the Pharaohs against Saudi Arabia in Russia.
Yesterday, he announced he was ending his retirement from international football.
El-Hadary, who also became the oldest player to save a penalty at the World Cup, quit international football after the tournament in Russia.
But, just six months later, he says he is having a change of heart and will make himself available to play for the Pharaohs at the 2019 AFCON finals in Egypt.
The veteran goalminder has been a professional footballer for 26 years now, making his debut at Damietta in 1993, the year the domestic Premiership came into being before playing for Al Ahly, Sion, Ismaily, Zamalek, Al Merreikh, Al Ittihad, Wadi Degla and Al Tawoun.
He made his international debut in January 1996, in the very month Zimbabwean forward Tino Kadewere, who now plays for French side Le Havre, was born, and has made 159 appearances for his country.
El-Hadary is a four-time winner of the Nations Cup and now wants to say goodbye to his Egyptian fans with one final appearance for the Pharaohs on home soil at this year’s AFCON finals.
“My ultimate goal is to be Egypt’s goalkeeper in the coming Africa Cup of Nations,” El- Hadary said on his official Facebook page yesterday.
Italian goalkeeper Dino Zoff, at 40 years, four months and 13 days, England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, just two months short of his 41st birthday, the then 41-year-old Northern Irishman Pat Jennings, Roger Milla at 42 years, one month and eight days and Colombian goalminder Faryd Mondragon, at 43 years, three days, all played for their countries at the World Cup at such ripe ages.
While goalkeepers have dominated this class of veterans, more outfield players are now joining the clubof veterans.
The Premier Soccer League has come under threat of losing its exclusivity as the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) intends to amend its regulations.