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‘I support the club because of my Betway slip’: Rulani Mokwena

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena has weighed in on the changing motivations of football fans, suggesting that many now support clubs for the potential financial advantage via betting rather than a traditional love of the sport.

Mokwena highlighted the current social and economic climate in South Africa, where unemployment and the search for additional income sources are widespread.

The Sundowns coach believes the landscape of football has shifted dramatically with the game turning even more commercial. 

He believes there is now new “means of generating income for society which includes betting”.

“You find people who are artificially supporting the club not because I support the club from my heart, but I support the club because my Betway slip is saying if Sundowns wins I make an extra couple of cents that is able to feed my family.

“I can put food on the table because I’m unemployed, I’ve got no other form of income …,” Mokwena told journalists ahead of the CAF Champions League semi-final against Esperance. 

“It’s for me to start now and say ‘ey, let me go and put Sundowns win, what what win’. Now, when Sundowns doesn’t win, it’s a problem because the guy now is saying ‘how am I going to feed my family’ and rightly so.”

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena on football supporters
Rulani Mokwena – Picture by Mamelodi Sundowns

Sundowns were booted out of the Champions League after a 2-0 aggregate loss.

Mokwena was voicing concerns about the growing burden on footballers due to the expansion of tournaments like the FIFA Club World Cup and the African Football League [AFL].

The inaugural AFL, won by Sundowns, had eight teams this season and looks set to be increased to feature 24 next season. These additions will lead to a significant increase in the number of matches played next season.

“I listen to coaches all over… I listened to Pep complaining about this, I listened to Klopp complaining about this,” he added.

“Do you know what I think will start happening – representing your national team will become such a minor objective and something that is devalued because that will be the only opportunity where even club owners are saying I would rather have my player resting and not participating in three, four, five, six extra games and being prepared to help my team to win rather than representing [the national team].

“In the past, when you were a club owner, or maybe even as a player you’d enjoy going to the national team. But all of a sudden, if you look at the trend, releasing players for the national team now for club coaches, has become a big, big, big topic…”

Mokwena warns that excessive workloads could put footballers at a much higher risk of developing mental health issues.

RELATED STORY: Rulani Mokwena: ‘And this is what SA football forgets about me’

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