Catch a wake-up?

2009-08-15 00:00

CAN the SABC please catch a wake-up? The memories of the hype and excitement of the Confederations Cup, and the promising performance by Bafana Bafana who responded so well to the big crowds that cheered them on, are still fresh in the memory. But the national broadcaster seems determined to put a dampener on all this as soon as it can.

The SABC has the rights to all Bafana games outside of major tournaments such as the African Nations Cup, Confed, and World Cup, which pay-channel SuperSport International has joint rights to despite the SABC being the official local 2010 broadcaster. But the national broadcaster continues to show midweek Bafana games delayed because of its programme of soapies. This despite the excitement created around Bafana at the Confed, and the blatantly obvious fact that there is less than a year to the June 11 World Cup kickoff, and every game South Africa play now is hugely crucial.

Consider, too, the somewhat ludicrous situation that Wednesday night’s 3-1 friendly international defeat to Serbia was almost certainly broadcast live back to that country from the Super Stadium in Atteridgeville. That means that in Serbia, thousands of miles away, people were watching a game live that was broadcast delayed in the country it was being played in.

It is hard to imagine any serious footballing nation around the world where this sort of situation could be allowed. Football fans in Europe would probably be aghast to learn that the games of the national team of the host country of the 2010 World Cup are not even broadcast live. The SABC is embarrassing itself and South Africa by showing Bafana matches delayed.

Compounding this is the fact that the production of these games is always amateurish and below standard. From the half-time analysis to the camera work and sound, the SABC’s coverage of Bafana games is nowhere near the standard it should be.

Some would say that, given the broadcaster’s current dire financial situation, this is not surprising. The flip side would be that given this sort of poor coverage of the country’s biggest sport and TV audience puller, which has always been the case even before the current financial crisis, it is not surprising the SABC is falling apart at the seams. On Wednesday night the anthems were hideously recorded and came out like some sort of very bad Dutch techno remix on morphine. Why televise them at all if they were recorded anyway and the producers knew of the poor quality?

One has to wonder if the game not being televised live could not even affect the players on the field?

If the country’s television broadcaster is not even bothering to broadcast the game live, then could that influencethe players’ motivation levels? It doesn’t seem entirely implausible. The very motivating factor in the Confed was the crowds, the hype, the global audience and the national enthusiasm, and as this grew, so did Bafana’s performance.

To this end, the SA Football Association, surprise, surprise, must surely also take some of the blame. How does Safa allow a situation where its number one product, its flagship brand, is treated in such a shabby manner. And to have a further go at the association, because it’s always such fun, to what extent did it market Wednesday night’s game in Pretoria? The Super Stadium was a quarter full, which seems very surprising considering the enthusiasm for Bafana directly after the Confed. This, too, after the high profile of the Confed, must have been too great a comedown from what was always going to be a descent from the stratosphere, and could have played a role in the South Africans’ sluggishness.

Not that excuses should be made. Overall Bafana were simply outplayed. The South Africans have always struggled against big, physical, direct teams like the Serbs, whose domination was similar to another friendly match where Bafana were taught something of a footballing lesson in a 2-0 defeat to fast, clinical Chile in Polokwane in February. The South Africans much prefer being matched up against the patient build-ups and greater sideways movement of teams such as Brazil and Spain, who they fared so well against at the Confed.

Not that being taught a lesson is such a bad thing. After all, is that not the point of the friendlies South Africa will play over the next 10 months? Far better to lose 3-1 to a very good side like 16th-ranked Serbia and learn something than win 2-0 against Malawi and gain almost no new knowledge.

The Serbia friendly did raise a few questions over depth, because Bafana coach Joel Santana’s substitutes performed quite poorly after South Africa had edged the play in a goalless first half. But the players coming on needed the experience greatly, and Santana has to begin extending his pool at some stage. Mostly, though, the result was a useful comedown from the Confed, and reminder that Bafana are by no means world-beaters yet and there is still much work to be done.

Unfortunately for South Africans, as long as the SABC has its way, and Safa seems completely unbothered to insist otherwise, much of this work will be televised delayed, which really ruins any viewing of a game from a spectator’s point of view. What will the official World Cup broadcaster come up with next … taping the 2010 games and then only televising them three months later?

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