PSL Chairman's Address at the 2021 PSL Awards

Ladies and Gentlemen, the 2021 edition of the PSL Awards is the second edition under lockdown. The PSL runs a performance sport. The PSL Awards Ceremony, is a red-carpet event in the annual calendar of millions of the soccer loving supporters and fans around our mother continent- Africa.

This is the 25th Anniversary year of the PSL. This ceremony would have been a thunderous celebration. Holding it virtually like we are doing right now, is a classic oxymoron - having thunder that is silent. These, Ladies and Gentlemen, are the effects of Covid-19.

Nobody would have predicted change, to the extent to which the Covid-19 pandemic has forced on us and the world. We literally live in a war-zone. War-zones are defined by artillery, sounds of guns and bombs all around. This war-zone is a biological one where the artillery is carried in people’s veins and transmitted by breath. Typical of a war-zone, there is restriction of movement and gathering of people, there are curfews, and people need to wear masks in public.

To the PSL, whose business requires movement and gathering of people, the war-zone environment we are living in, has created challenges that can only be overcome through a type of resilience and sacrifice that is unparalleled.

All the preparations, resilience and sacrifice culminate in the field of play. The players, coaches and referees have been particularly resilient. The mental fatigue they have endured require therapy. Traveling inter-provincially to play a super-congested season in venues ringing hollow from no supporters has been particularly stressful.

Nothing stress-tests an institution and a people like Covid-19 is. The stress-testing is not a simulation, it is real and most brutal. These Awards are therefore a recognition of a different type of performance - Performance Under Fire.

Founded on an inescapable need for change, the PSL is proving to have been built on a foundation and maintenance of growing integrity. It is of sound and unified construction. I dedicate this, the 2021 Awards, to the men and women that laid the sound foundation and those that maintained and continue to maintain the integrity of this great institution.

The PSL was born out of the NSL. Thirty-six years in 1985, nationwide meetings of leaders across the many spheres of our society were held with the founders of the NSL. These leaders provided advise and support for the formation of the NSL.

These leaders continued support as spiritual founders of the NSL. This year, we pay tribute to one of the spiritual founders of the NSL that departed this year. Isilosamabandla, King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu. His support for the league continued kufikela sikhothama Isilo.

Thirty-five years down the line I advised Mr Sandile Zungu to go get the blessing of the King as an important and necessary step in taking the responsibility of a Club bearing the name - Amazulu. Chairman Zungu took the whole team to visit Isilo.

He called on the day of the memorial of Isilo reminiscing about the many important omissions that would have occurred had they not met the King. Remember he predicted to finish the season at number 4. Well, AmaZulu Football Club became a phenomenon in the 2020-2021 season. They defied the odds and finished a strong second. Theirs have been a performance under fire that has ignited and reinforcing the PSL’s unpredictable status.

It is only fitting and proper that we remember and pay tribute to a living spiritual founder of the NSL. A man who has been there all the time. A man that has been hands-on, attending meetings, calling to give advise and share observations. A man that attends matches up to this day. The Honourable General Bantu Holomisa. He is an avid supporter of the PSL and loves its unpredictability besides his personal support of Kaizer Chiefs Football Club.

Unpredictable is in any other setting not good. Unpredictable weather is disruptive to planned activities including the wardrobe. Unpredictable people are not dependable. Yet an unpredictable league that the PSL match results brings about sustains the excitement and interest of the supporters. Supporters, fans and officials alike seat at the edge with their hands covering their mouths or holding their heads.

The path to the Nedbank Cup Final was filled with tears of the supporters, fans, players and coaches that common sense and smart money predicted their wins as foregone conclusions waiting for match day.

In the final was Chippa United and TTM under circumstances where they were addressing relegation threats. Chairman Abraham Sello won TTM’s first contest under his watch, carrying the trophy and pride to the Great North. Mamelodi Sundowns has continued to set a record with the fourth league championship win on the trot. They have earned themselves a deserving title, of the team to beat.

Whereas our eventing business has been choked by the continued lockdown. The content creation side of our business has endured. In fact, it is booming. It has filled a gap for supporters and fans whose movement and gathering is under lockdown.

Our Beautiful Game is unaffordable to both the Clubs and supporters without the broadcast deal with SuperSport. The symbiotic relationship between the PSL and SuperSport delivers the audience. To the audience this relationship delivers exciting content that enhances their consumption of the Beautiful Game.

The unparalleled playing of the last fixtures at the same time has created another exciting feature that the public is lapping up.

We thank our sponsors for helping us achieve the consistent delivery of a high-quality product, to the public at the most cost-effective price. DSTV for the unpredictable BABIZE BONKE DSTV Premiership; MTN for the MTN 8 LAST MAN STANDING and NEDBANK Cup KE YONA. And our suppliers that enable us to deliver the high-quality product.

Club Owners in their capacity as employers, have avoided retrenching staff at a time when the nation would accept the inevitability of retrenchments. I know you have been hit the hardest. You remain the unsung heroes of our puny business. To you and your families I dedicate a prayer of gratitude.

To everybody at home. Please pay attention not to miss a call for your turn to get vaccinated. Immunisation like democracy or road safety, only work effectively when all of us participate.

Going an extra mile by the PSL staff has made a world of difference to the Clubs. The compromising virus did not succeed in compromising the league’s quality delivery.

I know the supporters are impatiently waiting to return to the stadiums. There is a ray of hope. The UEFA Championship League is returning the supporters to the stadiums. This is because of the high immunisation levels they have reached in Europe.

Please observe the current lockdown to disable the third wave of this cruel virus.

May God bless you all.

I thank you.