Striker Tokelo Rantie reacts after the final whistle in Bafana's 2-1 defeat to Cape Verde in Durban. South Africa failed to win their remaining games and didn't qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

The meltdown that comes after every disappointment from Bafana Bafana failing to qualify for yet another major tournament would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

It shows how emotionally invested South Africans are in Bafana.

I remember how even a heavy downpour couldn’t dampen the spirit at FNB Stadium in one of the team’s best performances this year – their 3-1 demolition of Burkina Faso. 

It took hours for them to finally vacate the stadium’s precinct as they wanted to savour the moment because it doesn’t last long. Supporting Bafana tests your sanity and health.

Their failure to qualify for the World Cup is down to a number of reasons, from the arrogant mindset of thinking that they’ll just cruise past minnows Cape Verde before they were stunned with back-to-back defeats, to coach Stuart Baxter, who looked tactically bankrupt against the Islanders, failing to read the situation and come with a proper response in matches that Bafana had no business losing.

But it’s not just the players and the coach who have to account for this disastrous campaign. The suits at the South African Football Association (Safa) must also take the blame.

Firing a coach halfway through the qualifiers, after a morale-boosting win over Senegal even though it was later replayed, was ill-advised – especially since the reason for his sacking wasn’t football-related, but petty politics.

As if that wasn’t worse enough, they turned the search for his replacement into a circus that almost stretched for half a year.

Safa failed to meet a number of their own deadlines before hiring a coach who didn’t meet a key requirement on their own list, the experience of having taken a nation to a major tournament.

That’s not the only own goal Safa have scored recently.

Banyana Banyana have been without a permanent coach for over a year, while the Sasol League and ABC Motsepe League have faced numerous accusations of corruption.

The state of refereeing has also left a lot to be desired, with standards so poor that one of the country’s best referees, Daniel Bennett, was dropped for the Caf Champions League semi-final clash between Al-Ahly and Etoile du Sahel after his poor performance in the World Cup qualifier between Uganda and Ghana.

Yes, Safa have had some victories in the last four years in the sponsorships they have managed to rope in and keep.

The proposed women’s league that is set to be launched next year is a step in the right direction, while the Durban Under-19 Football Tournament has been unearthing and refining a number of gems.

But if people are honest, Danny Jordaan’s tenure that started in 2013 has been littered with more disappointments and fumbles rather than things to celebrate.

Jordaan and his administration haven’t done enough to earn another term from the Safa elections that the organisation will hold next month.

Safa are in need of new blood, but more importantly new thinking to take our game to the next level. The current leaders have run their race, and need to pass on the baton to the next generation of leaders.

Even if those new leaders don’t take over next year, the upcoming elections should have an eye on the future by bringing people who will take over from the old guard that’s been running South African football for years.

It doesn’t have to be a drastic change, but a gradual one that will ultimately see the face of South African football change.

What’s sad is that despite so many administrative blunders in the past couple of years, little has been done to make people account for those shortcomings. That shouldn’t be the case.

If people are so comfortable in their positions that they feel that they are beyond reproach, what’s going to make them strive for excellence if incompetence isn’t punished to send a message?

The winds of change that have swept the continent shouldn’t be about removing dinosaurs with other dinosaurs in another clique.

The reason why the meltdown that follows Bafana’s disappointment is so intense is because of the love people have for the national team. That emotional investment shouldn’t be trampled on or taken for granted.

An honest assessment of the current leadership is needed if we are to move forward.

If they get another term, they must learn from their mistakes and improve from them.

The only way that will happen, though, is if people are held accountable for their shortcomings and failures are punished – not just the coaches who fail the nation, but also the people who brought them there in the first place.


Saturday Star

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