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here we are again. The continuing demise of the South African national football squad is under the microscope. We’ve all been here before. Yet, year in and year out, there is hardly any real progress.
If something positive does happen, it’s one step forward and two steps back. But rest assured, through it all football remains as Teflon-coated as ever. Other sports are hammered, nailed and vilified, but football continues on its merry, mediocre way.
The end result is that SA football finds itself where it is now – the laughing stock of the country after failing to get the better of 138th-ranked Ethiopia in a World Cup 2014 qualifier in Rustenberg on Sunday.
Compounding the embarrassment is how comfortably the Ethiopians dealt with Bafana Bafana for about 75 minutes of the match. It was only late on, with their plight desperate and the East Africans tiring, that Bafana got the upper hand. By that stage, though, Ethiopia had done enough to expose the limitations of a planless, complacent South African side.
The painful truth of the matter is that this gloomy scenario could have been predicted many months ago – and, perhaps, even a few years ago.
In any other country, the position of coach Pitso Mosimane would have been untenable once he failed to qualify for the African Cup of Nations earlier this year. Not in SA.
The fact that Mosimane was only fired in the early hours of this morning lends truth to the argument that SA football only operates when in crisis.
In any other country, there is a serious commitment to youth development. Continuity is critical. Providing a platform and a smooth, easy passage for the next generation to emerge are crucial for any national football team. Not in SA.
Here, only lip service is paid to proper and genuine youth development. In any case, the real hindrance to development programmes remains the venal practice of age-cheating, the stench of which still permeates the sport.
In any other country, the on-field product is mature and organised. The team is prepared, there is a game plan, and there is a plan B or C when things don’t go as expected. Not in SA.
As usual, on Sunday, for most of the match it was the usual lethargy – like a bunch of sleepwalkers trying to find their way back to bed. The passing was sideways and backwards (yawn) – and there was no real urgency or purpose to Bafana’s offensive efforts.
Compare that to Ethiopia. Yes, Ethiopia… a country that doesn’t even have a quarter of the facilities or resources of SA.
Yet the East Africans were comfortable in possession, committed to their strategy of smothering Bafana’s time and space on the ball, and when they got forward they did so with enterprise and resolve.
In any other country, the selection of the national team is paramount. The best players are called upon, irrespective of race, colour or creed. Not in SA.