Bafana Bafana player Tshegofatso Mabasa during the 2023 Cosafa Cup third-place playoff against Malawi at King Zwelithini Stadium on July 16 2023. Image: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images

Out-of-favor Orlando Pirates striker Tshegofatso Mabasa has challenged Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs to create structures supporting players who deal with crippling mental health issues. Many sports stars have been open about battling challenges including mental health due to struggles in their careers and personal matters.

Mental Health Issues in Sports

English soccer star Dele Alli recently spoke about how he was molested by his mother’s friend as a six-year-old and started smoking and dealing drugs at the age of seven or eight. Springbok and former Bulls wing Sbu Nkosi opened up about his mental health issues after he was reported missing by the franchise this year.

Mabasa’s Career Struggles

Mabasa, 26, is a player who is going through a tough period in his career. He has not been part of plans at Pirates and was loaned to Sekhukhune United last campaign. However, he struggled there too, scoring two goals in 18 league games. Not for the first time in his career, he was again booed by his own fans playing for Bafana Bafana in the Cosafa Cup in Durban. However, he responded by scoring three goals and looking a threat, a performance he will hope can be a catalyst for a return to club form.

The Effect of Booing on Players

Mabasa said that while part of him is getting used to being booed, fans have no idea what effect it has on players mentally. “We are used to it by now because it happens quite a lot and it’s very important how you react,” Mabasa said. “It happened to [Thamsanqa] Gabuza when he was at Pirates, it happened to a lot of strikers including [former Kaizer Chiefs striker Kingston] Nkantha, and not only to strikers but everyone on the pitch experiences that.”

The Importance of Seeking Help

Mabasa believes it’s good for footballers to seek psychologists and try to strengthen their mentality because there’s a lot they deal with and people don’t know how it affects them. “You are playing, you want to do your best and the next minute they [supporters] are booing you,” he said. “It’s a difficult position to be in as a footballer because all you want to do is enjoy the game and do well.”

Lack of Support from PSL Clubs

Mabasa said the problem in South Africa is that PSL clubs are not well equipped to deal with such matters. “In our league, I’m afraid to say, ‘no’ [they aren’t]. We are not even close and it’s something we need to improve on,” he said. “I don’t know who is going to start it, but we need to help our players mentally, physically and emotionally. Because if you are not good mentally, you won’t be able to give out the performances people expect of you.” Mabasa added that having a good support structure is crucial and if one can’t be found, seeking help from psychologists can make a difference.

By Shamiso Miracle

Shamiso Miracle completed her degree in journalism and media studies at the University of Zimbabwe before honing her skills at Savanna News. She then went on to work at iHarare News, becoming a voice for everyday SA citizens who wanted to share their stories. When she's not writing news that entertains and inspires ,Shamiso is an avid reader and a wellness bunny.

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