While either of Gordon Igesund or Steve Komphela could be the man to help get Bafana out of the rut they are in, the biggest challenge facing our football is building a platform for sustained success at the highest level.
And sadly, it looks like the men in charge of the game in our country are oblivious to this.
When he announced the five candidates for the post vacated by fired Pitso Mosimane, Safa chief executive officer Robin Petersen spoke of a need to appoint a coach who will ensure we qualify for the 2014 World Cup (and see us at least reach the final of the African Cup of nations we’re hosting next year).
Fair enough, for that’s what we’ve all been craving – some semblance of success by our senior national team after many years of mediocrity.
A semi-final spot on home soil next year would be largely acceptable, while a ticket to Brazil in two years’ time is sure to be celebrated as if we’d won the bloody thing.
And then what? What happens after that?
All indications are that we will return to the rut, the new coach struggling to find quality players to help sustain the national pride (in the squad) that would have been rebuilt by those average, yet acceptable achievements.
And then we will bay for his blood and Safa will, typically, succumb to the pressure and send the coach packing. Back to square one as usual. Yet that’s not how it should be. Not when the problem is staring us right in the face. Local football must do away with its misplaced pride and admit all is not well with our game.
That we expect the senior national team to succeed while our junior teams are virtually non-existent is unrealistic to say the least.
And there can be no denying that while the Premier Soccer League (PSL) consistently tells us ours is among the top 10 leagues in the world administratively, the truth is that in this game your true measure is on the field. There we suck big time, Black Leopards’ continued participation in continental competition notwithstanding.
Here is what we need to do. While either Gordon or Steve contrive to appease us hard to please fans – who believe our national team is the best in the world – below them Safa need to start laying solid foundations for the future.
The association must set themselves a long-term goal and start working on it. Perhaps we should say we want to be a force at the 2022 World Cup.
To achieve that we need to put down a 10-year plan that will see us putting together a squad geared at achieving that goal. This must be made known to the entire country, who should understand that any kind of success in the interim will be accidental instead of planned.
Part of building that team should be putting in place an academy in the mould of the former Transnet School of Excellence, which produced the gem and finished product that is Steven Pienaar, as a matter of urgency.
There, the players should be groomed from an early age (younger than 10 yearsold) and properly developed, before they get to the elite league.
This centre of excellence should be headed by coaches who have proven themselves experts at working with the youth.
One of the reasons we are successful in rugby is because development of the sport with the funny-shaped ball is taken seriously. So seriously that even at school level, coaches are men with extensive knowledge of the game and well-versed with imparting the basic skills to the players.
Not so with football where many undeserving people occupy positions of influence but only succeed in letting the country down.
Proper planning has worked for us before. Back in 1995 Safa, in conjunction with Sasol, initiated what it called Vision 2000, a programme geared towards getting us to qualify for the Olympics in Sydney at the turn of the millennium.
Let’s do something similar for 2022 – this time with the goal to not only qualify but to do better than third in the group stages.
There are continental and world competitions for which these teams should strive to qualify so that by the time the boys reach senior national team level, they have international experience, unlike now where the likes of Lehlohonolo Majoro and Edward Manqele first experienced international football at Bafana Bafana.
Another way for us to ensure we develop into a top-footballing nation is for our clubs to start taking continental competitions seriously as this will give the players the experience of playing not only in the comfort of SA but outside, against tougher opposition.
This will ensure that they will be au fait with international standards when they step out in national colours.
I know I’m sounding like a broken record for writing articles along these lines many times before. I do so because it is the only way we’re going to be a force in international football. And it is about time Safa listened and acted. – Star Africa