One National Playing Philosophy? Yeah Right

Last week the South African Football Coaches Association (SAFCA) unveiled a seven-point plan geared towards redressing some of the technical deficiencies in SA football.  The plan, they say, is inspired by a successful technical workshop with SAFA, where SAFCA’s playing philosophy was generally accepted by participants that included former and current national teams’ coaches, youth and professional coaches and leading administrators.  To quote SAFCA, their programme of action includes the following decisive actions:

* To mobilise and unite thousands of coaches from grassroots to professional under a National Playing philosophy that will restore our identity as a football nation.  The practical application will be in a form of workshops and seminars nationwide.

* To engage SAFA in a second round of talks to implement and execute the Technical Authority in line with Article 45 of the SAFA statutes.   Article 45 talks of the Technical and Developmental committee which deals with holistic technical matters. This committee must comprise of coaches with impeccable technical expertise.

* To recommend a Technical Director (TD) after the implementation of the Technical Authority. A  TD or Sports Director’s appointment must be informed by the Technical Authority.

* To integrate legends and current players in the coaching programs that will focus on high performance and refined coaching curriculum.  Research and Development will be the base of this program.

* To convene a SAFCA Special Congress to review the organisations’ status and transform it into a purely technical body in line with the SASCOC’s coaching Framework and the National Sports Plan.

* To source funding from the 2010 FIFA Legacy Trust and other institutions like the National Lotteries Board to conduct refresher courses for professional and youth coaches in the 53 regions of SAFA.

* To work closely with Coaches Associations in the region, the continent and internationally.

Well it’s all very nice in theory but on a practical level, just like United States president Woodrow Wilson’s seven-point plan some 96 years ago, I just cannot see it working; or in this case even happening.  One must remember that the Premier Soccer League (PSL) and SAFA are two separate entities.  So even if SAFA was to adopt and implement these seven points, only the national age-group teams and senior Bafana Bafana side would adhere to this style.  Where the players spend the majority of their time, their PSL clubs, a different style is likely to be implemented and the reason is actually quite simple – money.

There are huge amounts of money involved in professional football.  Do you really think that a club like Golden Arrows or Jomo Cosmos will look to adopt a particular style of football just because it is in the national interest, ahead of a style that makes them hard to beat and ensures their top flight survival?  The differences in grants, television money and sponsorship in the Absa Premiership compared to the National First Division are massive to say the least.

SAFCA is on a hiding to nothing in this instance.  Instead what SAFA and the PSL should be looking to do in my view, is creating a culture in our country where Bafana Bafana is the most important team in the land.  Currently Kaizer Chiefs has more fans than the national team.  If you do not believe me then answer me this:  How come Amakhosi play at a 90 000-seat stadium and South Africa cannot fill a 50 000-capacity stadium?

Spain had a similar problem until recently where Barcelona and Real Madrid were more important than the national team.  As soon as La Roja became the number one team in the land, Spain started winning tournaments.  South African can learn from Spain in this regard, rather than SAFCA.