Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula stirred controversy by his public statement about Banafa, calling them a “bunch of losers”. After Bafana failed to make it past the group stage of the CHAN competition he went on to say publically that “what I saw was not a problem of coaching, it was a bunch of losers who don’t have any respect for his country”.
Now although he does have a point when it comes to a few individual players, I would like to point out to Fikile and the soccer loving public as to why his statement was flawed.
History of results
Since South Africa’s readmission in 1992, Bafana have played no less than 313 games, with the following results:
· Won – 45%
· Drawn – 26%
· Lost – 29%
That may not look too bad, however if you look at opposition you will see that Bafana played 69% of their games against African opposition, winning 54% of these games. When it comes to opposition from the rest of the world, Bafana’s win percentage is a meagre 23%. The most eye-catching statistic is that Bafana have only won 6 of 54 (11%) away games played against opposition from non-African countries.
When it comes to major tournaments (World Cup and AFCON), the results are not pretty:
· AFCON: Of the 11 AFCONs since readmission – Failed to qualify for 4 (participated in 2013 AFCON due to hosting), 3 first round eliminations, 1 quarter final elimination, 1 fourth place, 1 runner’s up, 1 first place.
· World Cup: Of the 6 World Cups since readmission – Failed to qualify for 3, 3 first round eliminations.
These stats illustrate that our poor performance is not limited to the current Bafana squad is Fikile suggests, but in fact we’ve been performing poorly since readmission, with a short peak between 1996 and 2000.
Coaches in South Africa tend to take most of the blame when it comes to poor performance from the national side. Considering that the performance has been generally poor since readmission, its only logic that coaches’ heads would have been rolling during this Henry VIII like period. Thus we’ve have no less than 16 coaches in 22 years!
Here are the winning percentages for Bafana coaches with over 10 games in charge:
· Shakes Mashaba – 62%
· Trott Moloto – 59%
· Carlos Parreira – 51%
· Clive Barker – 51%
· Jomo Sono – 47%
· Stuart Baxter – 43%
· Carlos Queiroz – 42%
· Gordon Igesund – 41%
· Joel Santana – 37%
· Pitso Mosimane – 36%
The two standouts, Mashaba and Moloto, have a pretty decent record but considering that their opposition was mainly African opposition (81% and 68% respectively) their winning percentages should be discounted. The best coach in my opinion is Carlos Parreira who’s 51% win percentage comes from games of 54% of these are against non-African opposition, of which he won 40%.
Bafana’s goal average is a measly 1.19 per game (1.32 at home, 1.06 away). That is not good enough and indicates a lack of goal scoring talent. This lack of goals is mirrored in the PSL where the golden boot (Bernard Parker) only scored 10 goals in the 2013/14 season.
Looking back at the last 22 years, these were the top scorers for Bafana:
· Benni McCarthy – 31 (1 every 2.58 games)
· Shaun Bartlett – 29 (1 every 2.55 games)
· Bernard Parker – 23 (1 every 2.96 games)
· Katlego Mphela – 23 (1 every 2.26 games)
· P Masinga – 18 (1 every 3.22 games)
As you can see we have never had a prolific striker, which is one of the reasons for the consistent poor performance.
Governance of the sport is extremely important and some of the scandals that SAFA have been part of raise questions about how competent they are to run the sport. These include:
· The 2010 match fixing of Bafana world cup warm up games – Together SAFA and the presidency of the country have done everything in their power to sweep this under the carpet despite overwhelming evidence that these games were fixed in Bafana’s favour.
Reported in the New York Times last week “A soccer referee named Ibrahim Chaibou walked into a bank in a small South African city carrying a bag filled with as much as $100,000 in $100 bills, according to another referee travelling with him.
The deposit was so large that a bank employee gave Mr. Chaibou a gift of commemorative coins bearing the likeness of Nelson Mandela. Later that night in May 2010, Mr. Chaibou refereed an exhibition match between South Africa and Guatemala in preparation for the World Cup, the world’s most popular sporting event. Even to the casual fan, his calls were suspicious — he called two penalties for hand balls even though the ball went nowhere near the players’ hands.”
Bafana also received very generous penalties and favourable calls in the other warm up games resulting in an unbeaten run up to the world cup. The report also stated that SAFA went ahead in using these referees despite the fact that these referees weren’t sanctioned by FIFA because the referee was appointed by a company “notorious for match rigging”
· Another huge embarrassment was the AFCON 2012 qualifiers in which Bafana and the country thought we had qualified for the main tournament. But neither SAFA nor management were aware that due to a rule in the fine print, we had failed to qualify.
SAFA then wrote a letter to CAF asking that the competition’s rules be ignored and that Bafana should thus qualify to play in AFCON 2012.
If the minister wished to call the current squad “losers” then he might as well every Bafana squad in history “losers”. Statistics show that it’s not current squad but a deep rooted problem in the building blocks of the sport.
Those who call for the coach’s head, again statistics show that the team has performed fairly consistently despite the large number of foreign and local coaches who have coached the side in the last 22 years. The main problem is not the coach but the lack of quality he has to work with.
The question of quality is back up by goal scoring statistics. We have never scored enough goals in national or club football. In fact the PSL is one of the lowest scoring leagues in the world. Yet we have a population of over 50,000,000 and a massive pool of talented youngsters.
Bafana is the final product of our football structures, starting with primary schools, high schools, clubs, clinics and finally our leagues. We have the talent yet it appears to be the development of this talent where failure occurs.
And the sports minister clearly shies away from mentioning that we have a major problem with development because of course that would shift blame on himself and the underlying structures of the game.