Thisisfootball.Africa’s Clifton Mabasa talks to former Leicester City, Ajax Cape Town and currently Stellenbosch FC chaplain, Bruce Vuyani Nadin about the mental health issues the football clubs or sports people come across daily. Nadin has explained the importance of a chaplain. And how and why PSL players need emotional help.
Clifton Mabasa (CM): Mr Nadin, thanks for your time, we appreciate it as Thisisfootball.Africa family, how are you, and how have you been doing lately?
Bruce Nadin (BN): I’m well man, thank you, yeah you know we keep on working and helping people where we can. I’m with Stellenbosch FC currently, I am their official chaplain. With a chaplin the players have got somebody who can advise them in decisions making. They have got a safe space where they can share things that are troubling them, things that they are worried about. There are many methods that we use to help sports people.
CM: What is accurately the main purpose of a chaplain in sports in general?
BN: My presence at the football club or in sports means that I become an important, useful asset. I become a person that anyone from the kit man, players, coach to the CEO, I’m the person whom they talk to. They are many of these sports people who need someone they can talk to at some point.
CM: Specifically, at a football club, what are you expected to do?
BN: For example, if the coach is failing and stressed or feeling pressure, he’s not going to go the club’s CEO, but he mighty come to someone like myself. Same as a person or a player who may have lost their loved ones or relatives, they can come to me.
CM: This means we really require someone like you at our clubs, our chairmen should do something….
BN: What I can say to the chairmen, or our clubs’ leaders, these players are more than footballers, they are human beings. What are they doing to care for these people. Do they have qualified people at their clubs to be able to offer support to the staff and players? My message to our beloved leaders is they must not forget their players are more than just footballers. They have the same problems, the same difficulties as everyone. They are in the public eye, on television and in the media spotlight and with all the pressure that comes with that, what are they doing to help them?
CM: What about a club like Mamelodi Sundowns who have someone like coach Steve Komphela, are they not covered? I say this because he’s one coach who seemingly has the skills of encouraging or giving that wisdom to our players…
BN: I think coach Komphela is one among plenty of coaches or good people who can offer wisdom to the players. Komphela can do that at Sundowns. But here is the challenge at a professional level, the coach makes destiny decision about a player’s future, about you being in the playing squad and decides whether your contract will be extended or not. I know at Stellenbosch we have a wonderful coach in Steve Baker, who genuinely cares about his people, but he is a coach first. He is still having a job to decide if you play, he still has a job to decide whether the team can keep you or not.
BN: So that means at some point the coach may decide against you as a player. It does not matter who’s the coach, Steve Komphela, Steve Baker, whoever it is, he’s going to make those decisions. The difference with chaplains is we don’t have to make those type of decisions, that just focus on a player and his performance. I know Steve is a wise person, a good man, but also, he and other coaches need people to help them.
CM: Bruce, I read a story of South Africa international and Bulls star, Sbu Nkosi, and now I think what you are saying it’s related to his story?
BN: Yes, and that’s exactly why we should have chaplains in our sports teams. The rugby player from bulls, I don’t know what really happened, but he disappeared for three weeks, and no one knew where he was, and it seemed like he was experiencing some problems, so therefore someone like me should be present at all times. It sounds as he had a mental or emotional concerns.
Let me clarify it, having a chaplain stops or reduces the chances of that from happening. When I was at Ajax we had a player who disappeared for four weeks, eventually, he returned. He had issues, and we were aware of that before he got lost, but he wasn’t really ready at that stage for any help, but at the end he reached out for help.
He had many concerns in his life and he admitted he required help and if he’d carried on the way things were, he was not going to play football anymore. In fact I would have been worried about whether he would be alive or not. Now five, six years later, he’s still playing professional football and his life is in a very positive state. So, I believe if football clubs can have a chaplain, they can help to save the lives.
CM: It’s tough, you were also in England and Ajax before, right?
BN: Yes, I was at Leicester City in England, I was involved at Ajax Cape Town, and now I’m at Stellenbosch, so I have seen a lot. It’s not easy for a player to go and confront a coach about his problems. And that’s not necessarily negativity against the coach, but it’s just hard to do that.
As I said, I have been in England with Leicester City, the same things that happened there, are happening in South Africa. They have the same struggles; a human being is a human being. The only difference here is that we had many challenges as a country, gender inequalities, social economic challenges but at the end of the day, people are people we experience difficulties.
There are always players or people who are struggling emotionally and mentally, and they need help with these teams or organizations. We think just because they are earning good money they have no issues, people have issues and in high-performance sport, the level of mental challenges is higher.
CM: We should do better, are you guys working permanently at these teams?
BN: All sports chaplains volunteer, we are not employed by the clubs, we are just volunteers. But Stellenbosch pay my expenses. We are available and we have relationships with clubs. We are always present for the players and stuff.
All our chaplains love God, people and sports among everything. We offer support, we care, and we can offer confidence. So, a footballer, rugby player or cricket player can come to me. We help them even spiritually as we also love God.
CM: Bruce, thank you for making time to share this important information with us. Let’s talk soon about this, God bless you.