Mbalula’s Bafana rant made some sense once he was done with the blame game

2014-01-25 00:00

WHEN Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula speaks on a public stage, you know it is going to be amusing. The man has no problem saying exactly what he feels, and though some might view his Bafana Bafana rant this week as spiteful and malicious, absolutely no one can fault his passion for sport.

Mbalula, like all South Africans, wants to see Bafana do well. More than this, it is his job to ensure that Bafana are in a position where they can do well. His attack was scathing to say the least, and even if it was offensive, at least it got South Africans asking questions.

But should the sports minister’s role not be focused more on what happens off the field?

To hear Mbalula criticise Bafana’s performance against Nigeria was puzzling at times.

“The problem was not the playing, it was the psychology. The team only started playing in the second half. Why didn’t they start playing straight away?” was Mbalula’s take on Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Nigeria.

While Bafana’s second half display was more spirited, it was largely due to the fact that they were chasing the game and, as a result, playing a more attacking brand of football. Had they defended for 90 minutes and earned a goalless draw (which would have been enough to earn qualification for the quarter-finals), we — including the sports minister — would all be singing a very different song right now.

Another astonishing statement was Mbalula’s unashamed crucifixion of Bafana goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs.

“I’m sure his [Josephs’s] mother was there. How is he going to explain that?” Mbalula asked of the Wits man’s performance. “The goals that were scored were goals that even myself, I could have stopped.”

That’s debatable. But even if the sports minister is more agile than our eyes tell us, then publicly shaming a man who no doubt feels worse than anyone following his nightmarish day in between the sticks, is surely not going to do any good.

And then, “Even if you can ask Danny [Jordaan] to leave [the] presidency and coach them, they will never win, I’m telling you.”

Wow. You mean to tell me that a football administrator doesn’t possess the tactical prowess to transform a struggling team into a success story?

The thing is, once Mbalula stopped trying to be a member of the SuperSport panel of footballing experts, he actually made quite a lot of sense. There are a gazillion problems at Safa and in our country’s footballing structures, and it is comforting to know that our sports minister — unlike so many of our politicians — is at least prepared to acknowledge that they exist.

“We have a crisis of monumental proportions. Not of talent, but in putting everything together.”


“This is our problem and it is going to have to be resolved by us … nobody else.”


“South Africa deserves more.”


Safa are due to meet early next month to draw up another new plan moving forward, and Mbalula has given president Danny Jordaan assurance that government will do all they can to support the decisions made.

We can only hope that development at grassroots level is the priority, and that Mbalula understands the urgent need to start putting structures in place that cultivate youth development. It appears that he does. Mbalula suggested a complete overhaul of Bafana’s “old school” players, saying that we have not won anything under them and that they must make way for a new generation. That is probably also true, but it’s easier said than done when we still don’t have any young players making their way through U17 and U19 level.

There is enough happening, or not happening, off the field to keep our politicians busy. That is where they are needed most desperately. Football in this country would be a lot better off if the likes of Mbalula focused their attention on these issues instead of playing the blame game with the 11 guys who went out there and failed their country as a result of being failed by the system.

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