PSL popularity adding to Bafana's goalkeeping headache
The PSL had the second highest number of representatives in last year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) after France’s Ligue 1. Many of those were goalkeepers, from Elvis Chipezeze to Edmore Sibande and George Chigova for Zimbabwe while Denis Onyango played in all of Uganda’s matches. Daniel Akpeyi was in Nigeria’s squad, Richard Ofori manned the posts for Ghana while Namibia had Lloyd Kazapua and Maximilian Mbaeva.
There are also international goalkeepers who weren’t at the Afcon but are crucial for their teams, like Mamelodi Sundowns’ second choice Kennedy Mweene of Zambia and Black Leopards’ Jonas Mendes who hails from Guinea-Bissau.
Orlando Pirates and Cape Town City went even further in search of their goalkeepers, roping in Joris Delle from France and Peter Leeuwenburgh from Netherlands. That heavy reliance on foreign goalkeepers has led to a mini-goalkeeping crisis for the South African national teams.
“It is actually a big challenge, not only for me but for the country and all the PSL and NFD teams,” Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki said. “Even when you go down in the NFD, most teams in the NFD are using foreign goalkeepers. The challenge will be: if the NFD are also using foreign goalkeepers, when are our goalkeepers going to be promoted to the Premier League and hopefully overseas?
"But if ever we are bringing quality in the country, of top goalkeepers, we should also export quality going out. If ever you have a team like Borussia Dortmund and they have a South African goalkeeper, it means you won’t have much of a challenge when it comes to goalkeepers in the country. But you cannot have top teams, like you put it, where most of the goalkeepers are from outside and we don’t have anybody from South Africa playing outside.”
The only goalkeeper who features consistently for Bafana who is abroad is Darren Keet, and he is struggling for game time at Oud-Heverlee Leuven in Belgium. This has led to a heavy reliance on Itumeleng Khune for Bafana. The second most capped Bafana player of all time is a reliable pair of hands with a world class distribution. But when he was injured, the country was thrown in a tailspin with Keet and Ronwen Williams not having covered themselves in glory when given a chance. The pair did a good job in the absence of Khune.
“I once selected (Cyril) Chibwe at Polokwane City and then he opted to play for his country,” Ntseki said. “At Polokwane City, both goalkeepers are foreigners. You go to Baroka, the goalkeeper is a foreigner. The same at Leopards, Maritzburg, Cape Town City, I can go on. It’s a big challenge.
"We need to start producing good quality goalkeepers. Now we have Lebo Mothiba playing in France as a striker. We need more Lebo Mothibas playing in France.”
Solving this problem will require collective effort, starting in the grassroots in terms of developing goalkeepers. There isn’t much invested in this art, with not many amateur sides having a goalkeeper coach. The main priority for professional clubs at the highest level is winning, if there is no goalkeeper in the country who can help them with that - they will look outside.
“It starts with the NFD, the ABC Motsepe League, to say how best are we promoting goalkeepers. How best are we developing goalkeepers so that when Bafana and the Under-23s look for a goalkeeper, the keeper is playing regularly.”