Blame it on poor administration

2010-06-19 00:00

SO Bafana Bafana have lost a game and the witch-hunt is on again. Probably — and barring a miracle that only the diehards and the masochists among us believe in — South Africa are out of the World Cup in the first round.

Some of us maintained hope from the beginning that South Africa could sneak through the first round. With the euphoria around Bafana in the last two months, we let ourselves dream the team could go even further.

Bafana’s stage-fright — mystifying because they had already got the worst behind them in the globally viewed opener against Mexico at Soccer City — Diego Forlan’s mastery, Luis Suarez’s diving and the inadequate calls of a half-asleep referee have all but put paid to that brief moment of optimism (delusion, some might say).

And yet, reading the user comments on the website, the real culprits for this crime have apparently escaped blame altogether — flown the coop, got away scot-free, as it were.

South African football fans call themselves educated, but they aren’t, and this is at least a quarter of the problem with SA soccer. The other three-quarters I’d give to the administrators. And it’s particularly the manner in which the angry users of Kickoff’s website have completely ignored the role played by the SA Football Association that makes me think too many supporters, quite bluntly, don’t have a clue.

In any other country, the lack of performance of the previous ruling triumvirate of Safa — Irvin Khoza, Molefi Olifant and Raymond Hack — in providing the infrastructure that would have ensured Bafana were a success at this World Cup, would have resulted in a government inquiry. In more extremist countries, lynching or public stoning might have been considered a more suitable option.

Why do South Africans not look at the real reason their football has struggled over the last decade? We just look at the coach and the players, but it goes so much deeper than that. Truth be told, Khoza, Hack and Olifant destroyed our football. We had six years to prepare for the World Cup, come up with a five-year plan and set up grass roots. And yet those three did practically nothing except, to all appearances, profit from football and pay themselves bonuses.

Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira has only been able to work with the players he has available to him. If, ultimately, they proved to be out of their depth, it’s not the coach’s fault. There should have been so much more talent. The coach might have made some mistakes in the World Cup, but all coaches do. These errors become more costly when you don’t have enough depth in players at your disposal.

Unless we learn from our mistakes in the build-up to this World Cup, South African football has no future. And the fans have a responsibility, too, to educate themselves, question more what they read in South Africa’s dodgy soccer press and demand better from the people running our football.

It’s not just about blaming the players or the coach. A malaise that has lasted for so long must run deeper than that.

I have to admit I’m a bit angry. I’m not angry at the players. I think they worked their socks off for the tournament and fought their hardest. Itumeleng Khune’s anguish at his red card will be etched in the collective South African sporting memory.

I’m not angry at the coach. He probably could have taken off Teko Modise and Steven Pienaar in the second half against Uruguay; but then, when you have depth problems, these decisions become all that much harder.

I’m not angry at the Uruguayans. Once they were a goal up against a dangerous host nation, the sensible option would always be to look for a penalty. Welcome to international football, South Africa. That’s the difference between a World Cup game and a friendly — experienced sides will do anything they must to win.

I’m not even that angry at the referee. He might have missed the fact that Luis Suarez was two metres offside when he gave the decisive penalty and red-carded Khune. He also failed to book Suarez for an earlier dive, which could have prevented his later theatrics. But it’s not the ref’s fault South Africa have had no development structures put in place in the last six years.

I am a little angry at the fans. It’s hard to be too angry, because their support of Bafana in the last two months has been superb, and a spectacle never seen before in this country. But I do feel it’s important that those who are to blame for the demise of South African football be identified, and don’t get off the hook.

And I’m very, very angry at the administrative fat cats who for six years did nothing but get fatter.

What Uruguay showed us is that we are a new football country, and as yet don’t have a pedigree on the world stage — much like South Korea, though even they managed to reach the semi-finals on home ground. If we want to compete on the world stage, then we have to start taking our football seriously. We’re not the only country with corrupt football administrators. It’s a worldwide phenomenon. But there are those countries, such as Brazil, who have corrupt administrators and also still have excellent grassroots structures.

The most annoying aspect about our preparations for the World Cup is that it presented an opportunity, which has now been missed, of bringing in big sponsors to back grassroots football. Safa has a second chance available to it in the form of the R4 billion it will earn from the tournament’s gate takings.

If the new administration misses this chance to plough that money into the future of the game, then they will need to be categorised in the class of the nincompoops who came before them.

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