Injuries to key Bafana players ahead of their two 2014 SWC qualifiers have exposed SA’s lack of depth

2013-06-08 00:00

INJURIES to key Bafana Bafana players ahead of the crucial two 2014 Soccer World Cup qualifiers against Central African Republic (CAR) and Ethiopia, have exposed South Africa’s lack of depth.

As a result, national team coach Gordon Igesund had to rely on what can easily be called a makeshift team in the friendly against Lesotho last weekend.

The defence has been heavily affected by these injuries.

But if our football was well-developed, Igesund would not be scratching his head and running like a headless chicken in search of suitable replacements for the injured Siya­-bonga Sangweni, Morgan Gould, Siboniso Gaxa, Tsepo Masilela and Thabo Matlaba.

And indeed, the players that he has roped in are not real replacements, as they come nowhere near the quality of the aforesaid well-established internationals, save for Matlaba, that is.

This was the left-back’s second season with Orlando Pirates in the Premier Soccer League, but despite being a greenhorn, he showed some veteran professional practitioners a thing or two.

He marked his arrival on the international scene with cracking goals against Malawi in a friendly in Durban and Central African Republic in a World Cup qualifier.

The injuries that saw Igesund try different combinations at centre-back, where he started with the pairing of Bloemfontein Celtic’s sturdy defender Thabo Ntethe and Mulomowandau Mathoho, could not have come at a worse time as Bafana’s chances of qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Brazil hang precariously in the balance.

But if our development was running like a well-oiled machine, this would not have been a train smash by any stretch of the imagination.

In well-developed countries — or should I say in countries with well-developed football structures — players are ranked in a pecking order and this is even known by the public.

The coach would know who the best players for each of the 11 positions are. He would also know who the second and third best players for each position are.

It is such a pity that in a country of more than 50 million people, and with world-class facilities — that were good enough to host a World Cup rated the best by the Federation of International Football Associations (Fifa) — injuries to five players can spell disaster.

And as fate would have it, the injuries to these players have hit Bafana Bafana in one of their most vulnerable areas of the field, defence.

This is a team who need a very strong defence given that they are not so potent in front of the goals.

To realise just how blunt South Africa are in front of the goals, you don’t have to look any further than the fact that Katlego Mashego is the best marksman, having scored a paltry 13 goals in the just-ended PSL season.

That is the state of our football and the burden that the South African Football Association (Safa) as well as the nation has put on poor Igesund.

And despite all this, the Safa honchos and the hard-to-please Mzansi public expect nothing less than to see their team become one of the 32 in Brazil next year.

As if that was not enough, captain Itumeleng Khune, who has proved to be the best player in the country this season, is standing one yellow card away from suspension, meaning that a booking against CAR would see him sit out the important match against group leaders Ethiopia.

Under these circumstances, Igesund will need to pray and pray more, while needing many prayers from the nation as well.

But Safa do not need to pray, they need to act immediately in fast-tracking the development of our football so that in future we can stand our ground against some of the strongest nations on the continent and globally.

If countries such as CAR and Ethiopia still send the fear of God down spines and leave our players shaking in their boots, can you imagine what playing against the likes of Nigeria and Ghana will do?

Something’s got to give!

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