After our U20s’ humiliating home defeat, it is time for South African football to look after the youth

2010-07-31 00:00

THERE has been a lot of hot air emanating from our football officials in recent weeks about youth development — the usual promises and expectations, but of course little in the way of substance.

I wonder what they are saying now in the wake of a humiliating home defeat for our U20 national side at the weekend. South Africa were beaten 2-0 by Lesotho at home in Soweto in the first leg of what should have been no more than a regulation first hurdle on the way to the African Youth Championships in Libya in March.

Instead, and not for the first time, we are on the brink of elimination at the first hurdle from the continent’s top youth competition at the hands of our mighty neighbours, a landlocked country with a population short of two million and limited resources — and yet with a 2-0 lead from the away leg of a match against a country of South Africa’s infinite possibility.

It makes little sense. Perhaps it could be argued that Lesotho were a little creative in the birth dates of their players (that has happened before), but without being disrespectful to the mountain kingdom, it is a disgrace to lose to a country of that size.

Lesotho battle to keep their teams going on a shoestring budget, while South Africa has an excess of resources. It should be a mis-match, but instead our side have been humbled.

The new South African Football Association regime has promised that millions will go into youth development, and rightly so.

But who is going to oversee this development? Too often the junior sides have become a dumping ground for coaches who can’t get jobs elsewhere. You can have all the facilities and resources, but if the coaches don’t pick the right players and inspire their young charges then all the money in the world is not going to help.

There is also a new technical committee full of flops, who are supposed to set policy.

The old Safa regime is to blame for this latest debacle, for it is their legacy, or lack thereof, that we are currently having to deal with.

It was Molefi Oliphant who was happy to swan around the world first class, with his friends to keep him company, but unable to keep the School of Excellence going properly and incapable of ensuring that there was a steady stream of talent moving through the junior ranks and on to the Bafana squad.

He will forever be remembered as the dozy captain who nearly sank the ship.

The new Safa president has a chance to do a lot better. His chief executive officer Leslie Sedibe promised Parliament last week that they have a big plan for the local game that will see South Africa bouncing ahead and taking its rightful place as one of the continent’s footballing superpowers.

Hopefully we’ll see evidence of this plan very soon and it will include making sure we don’t lose to Lesotho at home ever again.

Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and editorial director of Mzanzi Football.

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