U20 team’s success proves SA is getting the basics right

2013-12-18 00:00

THERE are also two Zulu words — “Siza Kancane” — which were quite popular at some stage as township corner shop names in the 70s, 80s and 90s. These two words literally translate to “we are coming slowly” but actually mean “we are steadily growing or building up”.

This seems to be the direction South African football has taken since the new South African Football Association (Safa) was elected into office in September.

The SA U20 team’s victory at the Cosafa U20 tournament is a sign of good things.

The team beat Kenya 2-0 in the final on Saturday, concluding a run that saw them finish the tournament without conceding a goal, save in a penalty shoot-out against Zimbabwe. In that game they lost their No 1 goalkeeper through a red card in the opening stanza, and fought for a goalless draw to eventually win on penalties.

Safa president Danny Jordaan rightfully pointed out when the triumphant team were welcomed back to the country on Monday that this was a good foundation to build on.

He said the aim should now be to ensure that the team qualifies for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil, and the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia.

He called the journey the M Road as it started in Maseru and should culminate in Moscow.

Under the guidance of Shakes Mashaba — by far South Africa’s most successful coach — this should be achievable.

It was the same Mashaba who took the SA U20 to the African Championships in 1997 where they finished second, thus qualifying for the World Cup in Malaysia.

That team grew up to become South Africa’s representatives at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Mashaba has also won the Cosafa Challenge, a competition that is contested by senior national teams from the Southern African region. This title has proved to be quite elusive for many a South African coach.

Mashaba’s team should act as a motivating factor for the SA U20 women’s national team as they face Tanzania in a second leg World Cup qualifier at Dobsonville Stadium on Saturday.

They have a 4-1 lead from the first leg away from home.

Qualifying for the 2014 World Cup that will be held in Canada, should be atonement for coach Sheryl Botes whose U17 team fell on the final furlong of their qualifier for their own World Cup.

These are positive signs that our national teams are taking their competitions seriously.

An indeed, there is no way that our senior national teams — Bafana Bafana and Banyana Banyana — can do well without a proper foundation of the junior teams.

It is also with this in mind that one has been calling for Safa and the PSL to find middle ground that will ensure that Gordon Igesund fields a strong enough team to be able to win the African Nations Championship (Chan) that will be hosted in this country next month.

We are capable as a country of winning this tournament but for this to happen, our football leaders need to work towards a common goal.

It will be a pity if Igesund was to field a weak side just because PSL clubs feel that the tournament is irrelevant. In fact, it is quite a relevant tournament for those domestically-based players who are still nursing ambitions of breaking into the international arena.

Here is hoping that common sense and a sense of national pride will prevail.

• S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa’s leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press sports editor.

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