Strikers lack tiger spirit

2009-10-03 13:42

IT is for real – South Africa has a dearth of good ­strikers.

Some of yesterday’s legends are convinced it would be a long time before the country produces the likes of Jerry Sikhosana, Fani Madida, Noel ­Cousins and many more.

In fact, former marauding Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates goal poacher Pollen Ndlanya reckons strikers are born.

Another ace of yesteryear, ­Madida, says not only does the current-day striker lack finishing skill, but also struggles to get into goal- scoring positions.

That is why the country has not seen the tigerish spirit of the “Legs of Thunder” Sikhosana and the never-say-die attitude of Daniel ­“Mambush” Mudau.

Neither defender nor goalkeeper could be at ease with these two strikers lurking nor could any opposition afford to let loose a ball with Marks “Go Man Go” Maponyane inside the box.

You could be rest assured in all these situations there was a goal coming.

You cannot, however, be that confident with even Premeir Soccer League’s (PSL)’s top goalscorer ­Richard Henyekane or Lungisani Ndlela.

During his heyday, Sikhosana was every goalkeeper’s nightmare as the sight of goals made his blood boil.

His solo run ensured that Pirates won the 1995 Caf Champions Cup.

Madida also used to torment goalkeepers with his scoring prowess.

But those were the days when strikers knew exactly where the goalposts were.

Today, it is a completely different ball game as inability to score goals has become an everyday life of South African players.

This scourge has spread from the PSL to the senior national team, Bafana Bafana.

Whereas the likes of Madida, Maponyane, Raphael Chukwu, Shane McGregor and Cousins made scoring their habit, the same cannot be said about the current crop.

It seems even money cannot motivate the players to score.

Last season PSL sponsors, Absa, put up a challenge for players to score goals, but they did not come to the party with only Henyekane throwing up his hands with 19 strikes. The sponsors had dangled a fat carrot with up to R100 000 for grabs for whoever scored more than 20 goals. For his efforts, the Golden Arrows striker pocketed R75 000.

Statistics do not lie and a glance at the rate players have been scoring goals show that all is not well.

In fact, the last time players hit more than 20 goals in league games was back in the 2004/05 season when former Kaizer Chiefs striker Collins Mbesuma was on top form. He scored 25 league goals, but he has been a shadow of himself of late, ­netting a mere four goals last season at Mamelodi Sundowns.

Sikhosana put it blatantly clear, saying today’s players were more concerned about money than ­playing.

“Sometimes when you tell the truth people say you are biased, but the truth is that players just want money hence they pull out of 50-50 tackles. They are more concerned about their wellbeing than doing the job,” said ­Sikhosana.

Former Mamelodi Sundowns striker Mudau said it was all about mental strength and positioning. He said strikers tended to drop deep to collect balls and this was not their duty.

He also lamented the fact that they wanted to score “beautiful” goals.

“A goal is a goal no matter how it is scored and supporters will always celebrate a goal irrespective of how it is scored.”

Mudau said strikers were not focusing on what they should do –- scoring goals.

“They must leave dribbling to midfielders and always stay alert in the box. They must also not shy away from taking responsibility.”

He said people used to say he was running like a headless chicken because he would always chase loose balls, but he believes most of his goals were a result of that.

Mudau said coaches had a hand in strikers not scoring because of confusing instructions.

But he said once players got onto the field, they chose to play their normal game if things did not go according to the coach’s plan.

Ndlanya was even more forthright, saying soccer politics were destroying the game. The former Bafana marksman said ex-players could help improve the standard of football in the country, but were not ­given a chance.

“I always believe that strikers are born and not made. Scoring goals should be in your blood because it is a skill,” said Ndlanya.

He said former players could teach current stars the technique of scoring.

“There is a lot we can offer from running off the ball to positioning inside the box. Unfortunately we were born in the wrong country where after your playing days you are no longer considered.”

He said during their era, they used to compete among themselves, and this boosted their ­confidence.

“If you don’t believe in yourself you are not going to achieve anything. It is all about passion and composure, something which is lacking today.”

He said he had since stopped attending games as there was nothing on offer.

Madida said strikers, like rough diamonds, should be polished from the development stages. He said lack of proper development was a contributing factor as players were not nurtured properly.

Former Bafana coach Ted Dumitru blamed lack of proper development as the main downfall of our strikers.

Dumitru said scoring goals was a specialised department which involved lots of components.

“It is not about shooting practice because defenders are getting clever. The moment we take development seriously that’s when we will get it right,” said Dumitru.

The inability to score goals has also seen Bafana scoring a mere seven goals and conceding 11 in nine games since the Confederations Cup.

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