Johannesburg – What a depressing day it was against Nigeria. We almost believed we could win – then the referee blew to start the game. We were belted. We were outplayed and outclassed by a third-rate outfit and that is the bottom line.
There was effort from the team, but precious little else. It was, to be frank, embarrassing to watch. At least we know where we stand, and after so many years of fooling ourselves, just maybe this time we will implement a plan that will harness the massive potential we have and steer SA soccer in the right direction for success.
Experts say Stuart Baxter’s plan was superb. Where is it now? Still gathering dust, having been used for nothing other than to impress potential sponsors? We have heard it all before but we forget it all when the PSL starts and we continue in La La Land until the next big tournament brings back a reality check and the cycle starts all over again. However, we are merely fans.
Sport, and soccer in particular, is an emotional thing. Did you hear that Man United fan calling the police in the UK to report a crime? On being asked, he wailed that his club is rubbish. That was the crime! He was full of drink but he was not joking and that’s what made the call so funny. He had contributed nothing to the club but total love and he felt violated. I can understand the anger and disappointment from soccer fans here and share it. To lash out at the team is understandable and part of the relationship we have with our heroes.
However, to hear our sports minister ranting after the game was sickening. At times I wondered if he was drunk. He didn’t seem to grasp that the performance and result was the culmination of lack of planning and organisation that has gone back years, even decades. Danny Jordaan admitted it. Fikile Mbalula has been minister of sport since 2010, so what on earth has he been doing to earn his huge salary? What is he supposed to do? If he has not influenced the sport in a positive way, then he has not been doing his job. If he didn’t know of the malaise in soccer, then he has, equally, not been doing his job. Unlike us, he has influence and authority and access to the top of the game. He also sits in the cabinet with others who influence, similarly, education, culture, the lotto, business and even how we are taxed. All that could have helped soccer. The president is such a fan that we are paying for soccer pitches at his Nkandla mansion and presumably the security forces will be able to cool off in the fire-pool after training!
Athletics in South Africa is a shambles. Cricket has been through bad times and we still await the outcome of that scandal. Boxing has fallen away dramatically on the world stage. Rugby does well despite selfish and greedy administrators, and our Olympic team, minus the swimmers, punches well below its weight. Tennis has just lost the Soweto Open in the very same week we have a finalist at a Grand Slam. Had the minister committed funds that paid for those impetuous increases for Paralympics medal winners, that almost bankrupted Sascoc, award ceremonies and visits by unsuitable role models, then maybe things wouldn’t be as bad. Hockey players have had to fund themselves to world events and our hockey coach has resigned due to the lack of a major sponsor.
Remember in sport, sponsorship is a barometer of health.
Nobody is saying that a minister should not have strong feelings about a national team. However, to launch such a personal attack, when the portfolio involved has nothing really of substance to it other than the development and improvement of sport, smacks of hypocrisy and opportunism of the worst kind. Give that man a red card.
*John Robbie hosts the Morning Drive show weekdays 6am-9am on Talk Radio 702