Barker: Let the players play their game
Barker was speaking at the launch of his football academy, which he says will be his contribution towards producing stars that will make South African soccer fans happy again. The man they called “The Dog” during his successful stint with the Bafana team, when they won the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations, lamented the state the national soccer side finds itself in currently.
“The performance of Bafana worried me at the Afcon (when they were bundled out in the quarter-finals by Nigeria). It (the approach) was so negative. We are a big country, we shouldn’t play catch up,” he said. “We are not producing top players in Africa at the moment. When I saw them playing at the Afcon, I asked myself, is that the way we’re supposed to play? The coach (Stuart Baxter) had a big influence on how we played and he didn’t get it right.”
Bafana were menacing under the tutelage of Barker back in the mid to late 1990s. Apart from winning the Afcon competition with the side in 1996, Barker also engineered the South Africa’s first qualification to World Cup finals (in France in 1998).
He, however, said yesterday in Durban North, that he remained optimistic that Bafana could still reclaim their status as one of the leading teams on the continent.
“We are capable of going back to dizzy heights. I’ve stayed out of the selection of coaches in the last couple of years because I know how difficult it is. There’s definitely a huge room for improvement. We’ve got to be a successful football nation,” he explained.
Bafana are not even in the top 10 countries in Africa right now. That’s how badly they have dropped over the years. Recently Baxter vacated the coaching job, leaving Molefi Ntseki as the man to take the team forward.
Said Barker: “Molefi needs to get his team playing with freedom. He must let them have a full go, he must let them express themselves. It is part and parcel of the game. We like the flair. We like controlling our destiny. I think it is very important that we play ‘off-the-cuff’. If we play like that, we will win a lot of things.”
Bafana have underachieved in major tournaments in the last two decades. Responding to why it has taken him long to embark on a development project, Barker said: “It has been long overdue. I had a setback with an illness. I’ve missed the game and I think I can offer something towards what Safa are trying to achieve. We will organise camps and work with various schools in Clive Barker’s Academy.”@Minenhlecr7