Now Safa must step up to the plate

And so, unlike this Joburg winter that shows no sign of ending its bone-chilling ways, World Cup 2010 is over, a month going past in the blink of an eye.

There may be some who woke up yesterday morning, got out of bed, looked around with eyes half shut, and simply got back under the covers, escaping the chill and the bereavement of the end of a month of footballing mayhem.

Then again, even for those who believe there is simply no more to life than the beautiful game, there should be enough lingering memories to stir the blood and rouse the soul.

And then there is the future. Perhaps the greatest impact that this World Cup left is the way South Africans embraced the tournament.

With the recession biting at the heels of overseas visitors, most of the ticket-holders were South Africans, and they hurled their support, not just behind Bafana Bafana, but almost every country with a vigour that perhaps only South Africans can muster.

The challenge now for the SA Football Association (Safa), and for all concerned with the game in this country, is how to sustain that interest, especially in the national team.

Bafana, spurred on by a fervent nation, played above themselves at this tournament, picking up four points from their group, and could be considered slightly unfortunate not to have made it to the second round.

Yet there remain serious flaws in the game here that need to be addressed if South Africa are even going to qualify for the next African Nations Cup in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, let alone the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Bafana would never have qualified for this World Cup in a million years if they were not hosting it. The side, quite pathetically, failed to even make it to the 2010 African Nations Cup finals in Angola.

Carlos Alberto Parreira's return, after the disaster that was Joel Santana, appeared to inspire the team to greater heights. But even with some success at the 2010 World Cup, their record as hosts was the same as Jomo Sono's Bafana Bafana in 2002, when South Africa also finished with a record of played three, won one, drew one, lost one.

South Africa are simply not producing enough top-class players. Safa have promised to pour the money earned from this World Cup into grassroots football.

The arrival already of facilities like the Nike Football Academy in Soweto increase hope that more players of the class of a Steven Pienaar, or even an in-form and fit Benni McCarthy, will start coming through the ranks.

It is Safa's responsibility to go into the regions and ensure not just that proper structures are in place, but also that any money is administered in the correct fashion.

A youth team is often a great lead into success at full international level. Ghana won the World Under-20 Championships just last year, before many of those players were involved in their fantastic World Cup run.

South Africa have come nowhere near to winning anything for years. They last qualified for the Olympics over a decade ago and if Amajita did reasonably well at the World Under-20s last year, a plan for London 2012 has shown little sign of taking shape.

Safa could do with a national academy like the Transnet School of Excellence, but the Absa Premiership clubs must also take some kind of responsibility for improving their own development.

Many of Spain's World Cup winners came from Barcelona's world-renowned academy.

And then there is coaching. There are clearly not enough qualified coaches in South Africa. But then again, has the overseas-coach experiment really worked for Bafana Bafana?

All of the above issues will be looked at by The Star in the coming weeks.

In the immediate future, Pitso Mosimane is likely to be tasked with taking Bafana to the 2012 Nations Cup. A start would be beating Sierra Leone, who Bafana failed to master in the 2010 Nations Cup qualifiers.

Baby steps, as they say.


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