Tim Spirit: Desperation hinders development

2013-12-17 10:00

As the dust settles following the sending off of Tata Nelson Mandela today, it is back to reality on the challenges faced by South African football.

One of those challenges is the composition of Gordon Igesund’s African Nations Championship (CHAN) team and we expect heads to clash, knowing how stubborn Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs can be.

While the PSL needs to be congratulated on its fixture postponement, the congestion won’t look good at all come January.

And, as usual, the national team will bear the brunt, which means Igesund won’t get his preferred pick for next month’s tournament.

That brings me to ask about the purpose of this tournament, especially when Igesund wants to roll out the “big guns”.

I’ve always thought CHAN was a developmental event, where fringe players would get an opportunity to showcase their talent in view of winning spots in the senior national teams.

Such has been the scant respect for this tournament that in previous editions, the SA Football Association (Safa) dispatched patchwork teams that would struggle to beat even the PSL’s basement dwellers.

Simon Ngomane and Humphrey Mlwane took a motley crew of first division players to Sudan in 2011 and surprised all and sundry by reaching the quarterfinals.

That, I think, has put Igesund under pressure to actually win the tournament instead of looking at the bigger picture.

But doesn’t he want to take Bafana Bafana to Russia in 2018?

Is he under that much pressure to conjure results that he’d chase after tried-and-tested 30-year-olds with nothing to prove?

There isn’t a better opportunity for Igesund to implement his vision 2018.

Fringe PSL players and the Under-20 team, who competed in the regional Cosafa final yesterday, have to be thrown into the coalface of continental competition.

Chances are the players they face will be the same ones they will be pitted against when they are deployed on continental club duty.

The African Nations Championship has always been, and always will be, a developmental tournament.

I haven’t seen the teams who have won the tournament take pride in parading mediocrity.

The big fish will always be the Africa Cup of Nations.

Then again, there is the small matter of the fickle South African football public and the country’s hunger for football silverware.

Should the Under-20s be given a run and acquit themselves well, it will give them much-needed experience ahead of the 2015 African Youth Championships, which serve as the qualifiers for the Under-20 World Cup.

That, to me, would be fulfilling as most of that team should form the nucleus of the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.

We missed the beat with the 2009 Under-20s, but here’s an opportunity to redress the “lack of development”.

Such foresight, though, has been corroded by the eminently South African “win-at-all-costs” attitude, which has been detrimental to South African football.

This has led to age cheating in junior tournaments because coaches want something to show for their efforts.

Instead of developing players and nurturing them, we rush them to winning things even when they are not ready.

There are no short cuts in life and everything must go through the paces.

It is well and good to instil a winning mentality, but it should not supersede development processes.

Do remember that the road to the underworld is paved with good intentions.

I am sure it is more fulfilling for a coach to see his product progressing through all the stages of life than fast-tracking him unnecessarily and ending up failing before reaching the top.

While the debate rages about whether he would get his preferred players, Igesund should rather go for plan B, if he has one. It could be staring him right in the face.

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