Soccer: Where SA went wrong

2014-02-09 10:00

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Retired striker Benni McCarthy believes Safa should have invested heavily on the system that paved the way for the team that reached the Olympic Games in 2000.

This, according to the player who was part of that squad, would have benefited incoming generations.

“I was very upset that the federation never really groomed the whole Under-23 team to graduate to the senior team, and from there if you are still good enough, get kept in the frame. This is where I feel we went wrong the first time,” McCarthy told City Press on the sidelines of The Chance Nike Soccer Tryouts, his sponsors’ initiative that offers aspiring footballers a chance to compete at local trials and earn a place at the Nike Academy in the UK.

“When was the last time any of our junior teams reached a World Cup? It’s a disgrace for our football when we have great facilities and pitches comparable to those in Europe, yet we are not excelling in football.”

South Africa last qualified for the Under-20 World Cup in 2009 and the Under-23 team has failed in their last three attempts to qualify for the Olympics.

McCarthy said: “Looking back, the class of 1996 was together in the Under-17, then we jumped to the Under-20 and reached the African Championships final, and later qualified for the 1997 World Cup in Malaysia and the 2000 Olympics.”

McCarthy, who grew up in Hannover Park on the Cape Flats, pointed out that South Africa “boasts unbelievable talent but the setup is so wrong at development level, we didn’t even nurture it well when we had great footballers back then”. He added: “I just hope Safa [the SA Football Association] will go the right direction soon.”

Safa this week outlined its plans to remedy the game at the developmental level. The governing body intends to launch football academies in all nine provinces in the long term and stage interprovincial tournaments, which will kick off next month.

As a way to impart his knowledge and new ideas into the game, McCarthy said it was the reason he was pursuing a career in coaching. He now lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he is studying towards a Uefa B coaching licence.

“I want to have the right to be a coach, hence I am going through the right channels to eventually pass as a qualified coach. If given the chance to coach – whether in Scotland, England or SA – I will relish the opportunity.”

The all-time leading Bafana goal scorer has been doing practical lessons under Glasgow Celtic coach Neil Lennon. He said he will complete the full course, including a Uefa A licence, in three years.

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