Like many football passionate South Africans, it was my wish to see our national team, Bafana Bafana progress through to the finals of the CHAN and possibly with the tournament. However, as wishful as I was, it was unfair to expect the team was assembled a few days before the tournament to win it. Also bearing in mind that all the teams, except the host – South Africa, qualified to play in this tournament, it was unfair to expect the team to win it.
As disappointed as I am and many South Africans are, it is too childish and to very least, irresponsible of the Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula to insult the players, going as far as calling them “ useless individuals”. To make matters worse, Mbalula pre-emptively said the problem has nothing to do with coaching, in defence of Gordon Igesund.
The problem of the South African football, which Mbalula clearly misdiagnoses is not only on the playing fields. It crosses cut right through to the management. For example, the same South African Football Association (SAFA) President Danny Jordaan, whom many think he is the saviour of the sinking boat, is inherently part of the root cause.
Jordan was one of the deputy presidents to Kirsten Nemathandani. The question begs itself: what is he going to do that he could not do under Nemathandani? The answer in a word is, “nothing”.
It appears that in South African there is a culture of retaining failures of continuity (to fail). Igesund his mandates, yet he retained the job for “continuity”. He failed to qualify for the 2014 Brazil World. He failed to win the 2013 African Cup of Nations, to say nothing of reaching the finals, yet he retained his job. He even failed to go beyond the group stage for the African Nations Champions (CHAN) with an avalanche of talent he has at his disposal.
Yet, the poor players are to be blamed alone. Under his guidance, what brand of football is the team playing.
Who selects the squad? Whose instructions do the players follow? The answer to these questions is the coach. Needless to remind Mbalula that Igesund has never coached a national team before, like many of his players, he was on the learning curve. Only Simphiwe Tshabalala had the decency to apologise to the nation for the team’s early exit, something Jordaan and the coach himself failed to do.
If there was a synergy between SAFA and the Professional Soccer League (PSL), the fixtures could have been postponed to afford the coach an opportunity to call all the players he wanted. The Orlando Pirates players are excluded whilst those of Kaizer Chiefs and Sundowns had one eye on the national team and the other eye on their upcoming Thursday game.
The South African football in totality is in disarray and it is unfair to insult the players. There is a culture of reckless statements made by these so-called leaders at times, which essentially leave much to be desired. Like any other soldiers, the players did their best to represent their country, the least they deserve, is to be insulted by the Sports Minister, who let his sentiments do the talking whilst his brain is at rest. By criticising individual players he has reached the lowest ebb.
Across the board, the country is need of leaders whose parlance alone, will instil courage in many despondent South Africans. One wonder if ever Mbalula had played soccer, to say nothing of being on the losing side.
The least he has to do, is to apologise to the players he insults left, right and centre. It is through times like this where true leaders rise and position-holders stumble.