Fans during the World Cup Qualifiers 2018 game between Bafana Bafana and Cape Verde at Moses Mabhida stadium recently. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/ANA

BAFANA Bafana is a national gift that keeps on not giving. But what surprises me most is the constant belief among fellow South Africans in how the national team will one day do us proud on an international stage, and bring home some silverware.

Let’s put patriotism aside a bit.

I am of the belief that putting in effort and working on a project over a lengthy period of time will eventually give one the desired results.

When we look at the previous three Fifa World Cup champions: Germany (2014), Spain (2010) and Italy (2006) there are common denominators in their victories I am going to use as an example. However, luck is not one of them.

As a country, we have world-class footballing facilities. It is evident that even the facilities we have do not guarantee a World Cup win. That is even going too far, they do not even make you, as a country, a continental glory contender.

Germany, Italy and Spain have found the formula for football success. These great European football nations have demonstrated that success at youth level can be transferred into continental championship and world cup honour.

Let’s start with the Germans. They didn’t have a good run in the early 2000s. But the German Football Federation (DBF) introduced a new set-up that included academies at every club and this led to the youth teams making huge progress.

They believed that success at youth levels would help the senior team to finally lift the World Cup again. And they were right.

Their Golden Generation won the Under-21 European Championship in 2009 and five years later, six players from the team formed the core of the 2014 World Cup-winning side.

Italy is very familiar with winning titles at under-21 level, having won no less than five times. Again, five of the 2004 U-21 winning national squad went on to be gelled with experienced players to win the 2006 World Cup.

Their class of 1977 is the greatest of the French nation. The likes of Buffon, Totti, Pirlo and Gattuso had great success at Under-18 level in 1995.

Then, there was the Spanish team that won the 2010 World Cup on our home soil. Who can forget that?

The efforts put into youth football resulted in great success in European football for the Spanish side.

Spain has only won the World Cup once. Furthermore, Vincent del Bosque’s squad that played in SA had 14 members who had won lots of trophies with Spain’s youth teams.

It was not an overnight victory or success. It took years and years of investment at youth level to develop players who later progressed to the national team.

Then you come back to the national squad of South Africa.


The only glory we can point to is the 1996 African Championship. It has no inspiring story behind it, but just a bunch of talented youngsters who somehow found each other and could lift some silverware.

Their success story doesn’t start pre-1996 African Cup of Nations, nor go post the 1996 glory. It starts and ends at the continental competition which they won.

Ne e le Mpho ya badimo ba Afrika phenyo e le. Loosely translated: The victory of 1996 was a gift from the gods of Africa.

We are definitely not getting it right. The sport fraternity acts as if they don’t know where the problem lies.

We cannot expect to put together a squad of 23 players who hardly play together and expect miracles from them.

Winning continental championship or the World Cup is not voodoo. There is absolutely no abracadabra or rabbits coming out of hats. We must put in the effort. We must build from the ground up.

Because, in failing to do so we will always hope, pray and calculate the mathematical chances of even qualifying for the World Cup when we hardly qualify for continental competitions.

Safa must stop selling the story,“We need youth development in football”, and start building academies across the country.

It is sad that those in power have so much hunger to feed their bank accounts, but little or no desire to do anything solid towards building teams for success of our country on the field.

it is embarrassing that we rave about our facilities but do so little to invest in the talent of young players.

Just like Germany, Italy and Spain, in order to see ourselves competing with the best in the world, we should be the best on our continent, not in reference to 1996.

That great success story sounds like a broken record already.

It had no recipe or formula to it that can be emulated.

It takes time and patience to build, but if the efforts and resources are directed towards youth development, we will emulate great nations like Germany, Italy and Spain.

We will become a gift that keeps on giving in football. Success does not come overnight, it has no short cuts. It is evident that we need youth development.

Come on, Safa.

Let’s stop being a bunch of losers! It really is not funny anymore.

Chabalala is the founder of the Young Men Movement. E-mail, [email protected], Twitter @KabeloJay, Facebook Kabelo Chabalala.