Siphe Mzaidume isn’t the first sportsman and won’t be the last to tell tall stories. In fact, just a few years ago, another cricketer foxed an English county into believing he was something he wasn’t. While Mzaidume’s is a story that will soon be forgotten, it should still should serve as a reminder for us to question everything.
Fake news becoming oddly real is nothing new. Just a few weeks ago a story about how North Korea’s Kim Jong Un had fed his uncle to starving dogs had people all hot under the collar. It turned out the story originated with a satirist. Sometimes it’s involves somebody like Russell Brand claiming he was banned from a country when he simply didn’t meet the travel requirements and never actually got to the border gates in the first place. Similarly, in sport, many have foxed the media – and even sports teams – into believing things that simply aren’t true.
There was Ali Dia back in 1996 who managed to convince Graeme Souness, manager of Southampton at the time, that he was George Weah’s cousin. A friend of Dia’s apparently called Souness pretending to be somebody he was not. The manager fell for the trick and signed the player without doing any research (to be fair, the Internet wasn’t as advanced back then). Dia made one appearance for just a few minutes and was subbed. He was never again seen in the Premier League. Near impossible to believe.
There was also Masal Bugduv – or rather, there wasn’t, because he’s not a real person. A few blogs, fake AP reports, Wikipedia and a few others had claimed that Arsenal was after a 16-year-old wunderkind. He ended up being named as one of The Times Top 50 Rising Stars, ahead of Mesut Ozil. He also ended up being on Goal.com. Both publications printed retractions after it was revealed that the whole story made up by an Irish prankster. The name was based on a Gaelic short story, M’asal Beag Dubh, which is about a salesman trying to sell off a lazy donkey. Simply put, it was a dig at the lazy approach when it comes to transfer-market news. Crafty and funny.
Cricket also had a faker, just a few years back. Adrian Shankar was a Worcestershire layer in 2011. His contract was terminated and his registration documents handed to police when it emerged that he was older than he claimed and had never played first-class cricket. Shankar talked his way into a contract and fooled the club into believing that he was a very-in-demand batsman who had just returned from a fruitful tour in Sri Lanka. The story is enough to make your head spin – you can read it here. Ballsy, but also stupid.
Then there is Siphe Mzaidume. A young man who, at first, evoked sympathy for the plight of black cricketers not getting chances in South Africa. It’s a sensitive topic. The development of young black cricketers and the transformation of the South African cricket team is a very important discussion to have because there is clearly something wrong. It was a good thing at first, because the discussion around development and transformation needs to be had and answers need to be found.
But Mzaidume’s story very quickly stopped being about transformation and turned into something a little bit more peculiar. With a little bit of digging, it became quite apparent that not only is he a very average cricketer, he’s also prone to tall tales.
There were the team members at the Irish club he played for who revealed that he was fired after four games for not being as good as he claimed he was. There was Kevin Pietersen’s spokesperson who confirmed that he’d never heard of Mzaidume and had never given him advice, despite his claims to the contrary. The list of false claims goes on, but the hole also gets deeper.
A number of his teammates claimed that he was busted for creating fake Facebook accounts to talk himself up. One of them, according to those in the know, is Kate Brezie Bresnan, somebody seemingly pretending to be related to English cricketer Tim Bresnan. Kate curiously hails from Northampton (where Mzaidume started his cricket career). Yet the Bresnan family is from Yorkshire.
There’s also a dubious-looking Moneeb Josephs account (the South African soccer player, apparently) which claims that 7.6 million people on Twitter were talking about Mzaidume. A quick search for his surname reveals it’s maybe closer to 76. There is also the astonishing profile of Darren Bird where it is claimed that in 2013, Mzaidume was honoured by Cricket Australia after being named “Australia’s most successful overseas cricketer at a ceremony in Melbourne”. There’s also a picture of his “Melbourne home” when, actually, his Australian club was offering some budget to pay for his accommodation – shared or otherwise. The list of these peculiar Facebook profiles continue to pop up the more you click around. There is, of course, no way to prove whether they are real or fake, but many of them certainly raise an eyebrow. It was a bit odd that somebody who is, if you believe these Facebook accounts, treated as a “celebrity” in England has not been heard of until now.
If any of these are indeed fake, then the story has taken yet another turn and the person creating all of them needs some help. It has certainly served as an interesting insight into how much lingers underneath the surface of the Internet – for those with time to spare, anyway.
Hoaxes happen all the time: some are funny, some are a bit silly and some are just sad. Perhaps it will turn out that the Irish club, KP’s spokesperson and everyone else who has refuted Mr Siphe’s claims are all conspiring to bring down a very promising young cricketer because of jealousy. (Unlikely, but hey.) The story has blown over now and, barring a revelation from Pietersen and others that they were all in on the lie, nothing more will come of it.
There is just one important thing to remember: always question everything. Yes, even this column. DM
"I do not understand how holding a placard to protest against gender-based violence would be interpreted as insulting the modesty of a woman." ~ Beatrice Mateyo