How a bare striker cupboard could leave Bafana in serious trouble

2010-10-23 00:00

HAVE you pondered the possibility Katlego Mphela gets injured, or suspended, in the coming matches and is unavailable to play in key Bafana Bafana games in the immediate future?

If so, you will realise our national side will be deep in the dwang. At the moment he is the only recognised striker we have, and if he is sidelined, the attack will be threadbare.

Benni McCarthy is no longer in the picture, Bernard Parker is more of an attacking midfielder, and the third option, Sthembiso Ngcobo, is still trying to find his way at the highest level. The new Kaizer Chiefs signing might have scored on his Bafana Bafana debut last year, but he has not exactly set the Premier Soccer League alight.

Then there is Kermit Erasmus, earmarked as one for the future, but who cannot get into the starting line-up at SuperSport United because they prefer to play imports from Angola and Ethiopia.

The national side is treading in potential quicksand as a result of years’ worth of under-developed local strikers, and the short-sightedness of our leading football officials could come back to haunt.

The paucity of talent is the fault of the clubs, who long ago upped the number of foreign players allowed per Premier Soccer League team from three to five so that they could all buy instant success.

It is particularly in the forward department where all South African clubs have sought to buy supposedly already finished products, from around Africa and destinations as diverse as Venezuela, rather than nurture their own talent. Now we are paying the price.

It is time now for the 16 PSL clubs to consider the greater good of South African football, from which they too ultimately benefit handsomely.

Restrictions on the growing, mediocre cast of foreigners who play in the PSL must be brought in as soon as possible, from next season at least.

For a start, let us go back to a maximum of three foreign players per clubs and extend this restriction to players who have become naturalised South Africans, but are still ineligible to play for Bafana Bafana because they have represented other countries at international level. This conversion over the years effectively means some clubs have many more than their quota of five foreigners.

Ironically, if you look at the list of all the foreigners in the league across all 16 clubs, you’d be hard-pressed to find a side who regularly use more than three per game anyway.

There is growing concern throughout the world over the development of local talent. Many leagues have brought in restrictions. England, for example, have brought in drastic measure as they face a similar crisis to that of Bafana Bafana.

In South Africa, restrictions have already been put in place in the National First Division, including a quota of age-group players imposed in the Vodacom League. These are positive measures, but the lead really should come from the professional clubs, who are still reluctant.

Local players must be given a chance to play in the PSL and develop their potential at the highest level. It is criminal to stymie their potential by using mediocre players from elsewhere on the continent.

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

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