Bafana players need to catch a wake-up, the joke is wearing very, very thin

2014-05-23 00:00

IT’S been said that laughter is the best medicine, guaranteed to cure any mishap or stress in life. Over time, it’s also been said that where there is laughter, there is always hope.

Now, the latter statement asks for some attention and begs the question, is this really the case? Is there hope where laughter abounds?

Some investigation into the world of sport, particularly with attention on our beloved Bafana national soccer team, puts the theory of laughter and hope combining to produce something positive to a severe test. In fact, it proves the statement wrong. Bafana provide endless hours of laughter and have been doing so for nearly 20 years, yet hope left the building — if it ever was inside — long before the first cackle was heard.

Since the sporting ban was lifted on South Africa, our national teams have been competitive on most fronts, able to take on the best in the world and compete with respect against fellow nations.

Individual athletes have dug deep and called on resources that have been dormant for decades to show what they are capable of, yet our soccer lads continue to baffle, a bookmaker’s dream as any bet on them is always a huge gamble.

Coaches have come and gone, many heading for fame and fortune in faraway lands after failing to get the message of the beautiful game through to the folks on the southern tip of Africa. Quests have failed, many falling embarrassingly short of the mark, the only celebration a distant memory of the team winning the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996 under coach Clive Barker, who is still held in high esteem by the soccer followers of our country.

Which brings us to the present and, whether a soccer follower or not, there has to be some feeling for current Bafana coach Gordon Igesund. Perhaps being on crutches right now is a clear sign that he is on the verge of sheer collapse such is the situation within the camp he supposedly commands.

Here we have a group of national players, exponents of the game who are said to be professional, yet when they are asked to do their job, they cry foul.

The latest Bafana comedy slot — the one where more than half the selected players for a tour to Austral­asia have made themselves unavailable — brings tears to the eyes, but it’s not from rolling on the floor with laughter.

Rather it’s tears of exasperation and commiseration, especially for Igesund. Surely, as coach and an astute student of the game — he is from the same mould and era as Barker — he would not originally select a squad where the majority of the players are injured or sick as they claim. It defies logic that a national coach would do such a thing and now the poor man has to face the media and give weak statements day after day, saying how he appreciates the demands on the players; they have a heavy schedule; there is plenty of depth to replace them; it’s great to give new players a chance and what must surely be the biggest lie of all, he claims he is happy with the squad he has. Really? It makes one wonder whether in all his 27 years at Manchester United, did the great Sir Alex Ferguson work with a bunch of sub-standard players who just happened to perform when they had to and keep the trophy cabinet overflowing?

Let’s just front up to the truth and announce the same to those who still care enough to support the national soccer team and those who are tasked with writing about them.

This tour to Australia and New Zealand — bearing in mind that the squad also departed a day later than scheduled — obviously has no value to our national players who are paid far too much and are now able to sit back and call the shots, choosing the worldly destinations at their own behest where they would like to play and do some shopping.

They should be severely disciplined and their pay package savaged. This is not about being comfortable and strutting around with an air of invincibility just because you play soccer for your national side, a national side that hovers in the lower echelons of world soccer. Surely the focus should be on work ethic to improve the current predicament rather than fancy cars, branded clothing and a beautiful woman on the shoulder.

It’s plain to see that laughter will never bring hope to Bafana and, while the monthly pay is a huge incentive to keep going, Igesund would be better off coaching a group of primary school children who are still at the age where they value the opportunity to play soccer, appreciate what it offers and play because they put the game above themselves.

Long may we continue to laugh, but let’s laugh at something that hurts our stomachs because it’s so funny, not something that makes us run for cover to hide from the rest of the football world.

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