Pressing Issues: Ghosts of the past still haunt local soccer

2014-12-01 11:00

" No! No! We are not going there again!”

I found myself pondering this aloud early this week when reports emerged that some PSL clubs intended to pull their players from Shakes Mashaba’s squad to face Ivory

Coast in the Nelson Mandela Challenge at Nelspruit’s Mbombela Stadium today.

Allow me to correct myself: It is not Mashaba’s squad, but the South African senior men’s national soccer team, Bafana Bafana.

Initial reports claimed that Kaizer Chiefs were “reluctant” to release their players for the event because it does not fall within the Fifa calendar. Eventually the club, through manager Bobby “Bobsteak” Motaung, confirmed their stance.

Later in the week, it was reported that Bidvest Wits were only willing to free one of their three selected players, right back Siyabonga Nhlapo. Thulani Hlatshwayo and Jabulani Shongwe were forbidden

to join the national team.

This situation takes us back to

the nauseating “club-vs-country” conundrum, which I thought we had moved past a long time ago.

The SA Football Association and its affiliate, the PSL, have a glorified body called the Joint Liaison Committee. One of its duties is to coordinate the two football organisations’ calendars.

One would have thought that there would have been some communication between the two bodies before Mashaba announced the squad for this important match.

We all know how embarrassing it has been in the past when coaches had to run around trying to patch up the holes left in the squad after clubs had withdrawn their players. The coaches would end up with a team scarcely resembling the one they had planned to form.

Under these circumstances, one would have thought that our soccer bigwigs had learnt their lesson and come up with a solution that was agreeable to all parties.

I really did not expect the circus that one witnessed this week.

It takes us back to a dark period when the two organisations seemed hellbent on showing each other up as they tried in vain to flex their limp muscles.

The Nelson Mandela Challenge has taken place every year since 1994, when Bafana Bafana beat Zambia 2-1 at Ellis Park in Joburg. One would have thought a solid agreement exists by now.

This is one situation that calls for reflection. We need to find a way to achieve better coordination of football matches and fixtures with other sporting codes.

The fact that last week’s Unite4Mandela event, which was held in Pretoria and featured cyclists, runners and walkers, was a roaring success, got me thinking.

How about arranging all the sporting events aimed at celebrating this South African icon – Madiba – in a synchronised manner?

Imagine if last week’s event was followed by the Nelson Mandela Challenge in the capital on the Sunday!

I’m sure cities would fall over themselves to outbid each other to host such an event.

The dates would be known at the beginning of the year and everybody would be on the same wavelength. We would avoid the petty squabbling we experienced this week.

It would be a crying shame if Mashaba is forced to field a weakened squad against a strong Ivory Coast outfit today.

Not just because this match is in Mandela’s name, but because it would expose the disrespect sporting bodies have for each other in this country.

They should all pull together for the benefit of South Africa, rather than becoming involved in a futile and damaging tug-of-war.

Ironically, tug-of-war is the only sport where winners go backwards while the losers surge forward.

Save our sport from marching forward to the past!

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