African Nations Cup qualifier: the SABC botched up, and they botched up badly

2010-10-16 00:00

ON Sunday I was able to watch South African teams take on international opponents in Twenty20 cricket, bowls, men’s and women’s hockey and individuals cycling, lifting weights and swimming for national glory.

But I could not see the country’s biggest sports side, Bafana Bafana, play one of their most important games of this year, even though their African Nations Cup qualifier in Sierra Leone had been scheduled for screening.

It is not the first time that planned coverage of a South African international football game has been botched. At this point, I must own up to vested interests, as a SuperSport commentator, but spent long enough in the employ of the SABC to believe they botched up badly.

Reportedly, equipment sent from South Africa for the game did not make it to Freetown on time, which would speak of poor organisation and a general disregard for a nation’s desire to see its team in action.

The South African Football Association (Safa) have already been talking about taking the televising of national team matches away from the state broadcaster, because they want to squeeze more money out of their properties.

I’m not sure SuperSport want the potential political ramifications of getting into a bidding war with the SABC, but this is a matter that will unfold in the coming months.

For the moment, the state broadcaster has an obligation to provide coverage of the country’s most popular sport and the team that represents the nation — Bafana Bafana.

If they were off to some obscure and expensive destination for a friendly match, I could understand the SABC balking at the cost and maybe not showing the game. But to fail to show a match of this importance because the equipment didn’t get to the venue on time speaks of a dereliction of duty.

I wonder if there will be any action taken within the SABC against those who failed to get the game on air?

I remember the hard work of many past SABC executives to get matches from difficult places like Pointe Noire in Congo, Antananarivo in Madagascar and Lome in Togo on air. They were tough places to get things done, but there was a determination to make sure the South African public back home got to see the game.

There were many behind-the-scenes heroes, who went through hoops, to get their job done. I was on many of those trips and watched with wonderment how massive technical hurdles were overcome.

It has got easier over the years as technology has changed and equipment becomes smaller and lighter. Yet now we have this calamity.

It is not acceptable that the state broadcaster fails to show a key Bafana Bafana game. It is their legislative duty to do so, but on Sunday they failed.

 

• Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and editorial director of Mzanzi Football.

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