One of life’s greatest pleasures growing up was watching old school kung fu films on television.
Kung fu movies were great because they were predictable. Someone (let’s call him Lee) would watch his father get killed (generally in the first 5 minutes of the film). Lee, not knowing any kung fu, would seek revenge and get pummeled to within an inch of his life. Discouraged he would go and drown his sorrows at a restaurant, cause a fight with some patrons and be rescued by an old drunk beggar/tramp (who would fight using amazing kung fu) and single-handedly defeat about ten bad guys.
The old man would reluctantly take Lee under his wing and teach him kung fu. Lee would reach a certain level and be convinced he now knows everything and can seek revenge for his father.
At this point Lee would start getting into random fights with strangers to test his newly acquired skills. Lee would easily win these skirmishes and use them as an opportunity for a bit of showboating of all the techniques he had learned.
Which brings me to showboating in football.
Recently, Mamelodi Sundowns head coach Pitso Mosimane took umbrage at players from Bidvest Wirs during the MTN8 final, whom he accused of showboating as they were 3-0 up.
“They played well, they deserve it, but I don’t like the show and I spoke to Keagan Dolly, I could see he was going to lose it,”
I think Pitso was just seeing red because his team had been totally outplayed by their opponents. To be fair, the Wits players put on a show for their fans
and they were showboating to the maximum extent possible. But who can begrudge them their time in the spotlight? They had probably come into this game as heavy underdogs against their heavy-spending and much-fancied opponents. Deep down, the Wits players knew that they would probably never have this opportunity in the near future to be 3-0 and cruising in a cup final. Why deny them their moment in the spotlight?
Showboating is a pointless and futile exercise. The objective is not to evade an opponent or gain an advantage in moving the ball forward to score a goal. The aim is purely to ridicule and make your opponent feel completely and utterly useless. And that’s one of the reasons I enjoy showboating – its main objective is entertainment and humiliation.
South African football has always prided itself on the “piano and shoeshine”style of football, which is focussed on performing tricks, embarrassing opponents and entertaining the crowd. One of the best current exponents of this art form is Orlando Pirtates’ Thabo Rakhale, and you can see a highlight reel of some of his best work here
Young Cristiano Ronaldo was a showboating machine when he first arrived at Manchester United from Sporting Lisbon – that didn’t last long under Alex Ferguson’s watch and he decided that he would rather be successful and win stuff
than focus only on ridiculing his opponents. How boring.
I’ve not mentioned a number of great dribblers in this piece – Nwankwo Kanu, Ronaldinho, Jay Jay Okocha, Leo Messi – and that is deliberate. These gentlemen, among many other greats, were/are great footballers but they managed to combine dribbling skills with purpose and awareness to devastating effect. Ronaldinho in his prime was one of the most entertaining players in the world to watch – he provided a show to people who watched him play. But these players are not pure showboaters to the same extent as a Thabo Rakhale.
There are those who argue that showboating has no place in modern football and that players should “respect their opponents”. These people probably have grey as their favourite colour and detest the sun for shining “too much every day” as it will probably lead to cancer. They are the type of people who probably don’t like sugar because it is too sweet and detest bread because it has too many carbs.
You would do well to avoid these people, and instead celebrate the next time an opponent gets utterly humiliated by an outrageous piece of skill.
Viva showboating. Thabo Rakhale, and all your brothers and sisters around the world – keep doing the right thing and bringing joy to the world through endless shibobos (nutmegs).