Sometimes it feels as if I am blogging about the same thing for the 70th time. The troubles of South African football fall into this category. So on Friday Bafana Bafana wrapped up 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying against Mauritania in yet another underwhelming performance and for the umpteenth time the future of coach Shakes Mashaba is under the spotlight. Should Shakes go or should Shakes stay? I doubt it actually makes any difference.
Photo credit: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix
This country’s football problems are so deeply rooted that whether Joachim Loëw or Mickey Mouse is in charge, there is not much chance things will improve. The gradual decline of the national team’s fortunes since 1996 AFCON glory are well documented and do not need repeating here. However a quick look at the last decade is particularly telling. Let us go back ten years to the period just after Germany’s 2006 World Cup. South Africa have qualified for three AFCONs (one by virtue of being host nation and the only occasion the side reached the quarter-finals) and missed out on as many to boot. The World Cup qualification record is also 50-50 but again the country’s host nation status ensured its presence at the 2010 showpiece. Of course there is no way of knowing whether or not Bafana Bafana would have actually qualified or not but the general consensus is that it is unlikely.
Development is spoken about ad nauseam and is the stuck record of the footballing lexicon in SA. Every one of the 1996 heroes I have spoken to agree that the raw talent is there for the country to compete so what is the problem? If the best players in the world are based in Europe, and by extension that continent’s best leagues, then South Africa has a real problem. Once upon a time this country had players gracing the English Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A. This has not been the case for some time now. Yes, there might have been a Steven Pienaar and Kagisho Dikgacoi here and a Tsepo Masilela there, but by and large South Africans have been absent from the best football leagues in the world. What do we make then of Anele Ngcongca signing for Mamelodi Sundowns after spending the last nine years in Belgium and France? Another massive problem is goal scoring but then you do not have to win every game 5-0 do you? A simple 1-0 would be good enough as any wily tactician will tell you.
The Absa Premiership consistently ranks in the top 10 of the world’s richest leagues and South Africa boasts some of the planet’s finest facilities and infrastructure. Bafana Bafana is simply a symptom of the problem but as is always the case the coach will be in the firing line while the suits march on.
Photo credit: AFP PHOTO / CARL DE SOUZA
Mashaba has had his critics but I maintain it is the coach’s prerogative to pick the players who he believes will get the job done. If he wants to play a quick passing game then a beanpole striker is not really going to make the squad, is he? However if there is an agenda of some kind at play, then it might be time for the coach to go.
But even if Mashaba did go, who would replace him? No coach will be able to bring a magic wand to the national team. That magic wand is something that needs to be wielded at SAFA and technical director Neil Tovey is the man who is responsible. But before we bash Tovey, I have long sensed that the PSL controls football in South Africa rather than SAFA. The federation is only able to do what the “Parktown posse” will allow.
Forgive me for using some 600 words just to build up to this one very simple, but quite definitive thought: Until South African football becomes about how we can get Bafana Bafana winning, instead of how much money certain individuals can make, then we shall forever remain in the doldrums.