PSL thrills are in short supply

2010-02-20 00:00

GIVEN the spate of scandalous shooting from Mamelodi Sundowns on Sunday, it would be a travesty if they won the championship.

For a side so packed with alleged stars, it was amazing to watch the poor decision-making, weak final touch and incredible misses displayed at the Super Stadium as Sundowns were held by Santos and fell two points behind SuperSport United in the championship chase.

But it was no surprise. For all the frills around the Premier Soccer League — and to its credit it is a seriously run league with ambitious intent — the thrills are in short supply.

South African footballers continue to battle with the basics of the game, even though recent years have brought in a steady supply of supposedly big-name coaches. Television money means clubs are richer, facilities are better and trainers imported from around the world, but still players can’t trap, cross or shoot.

All season long, I have watched game after game where the number of shots on target is fewer than 50%, even with the top clubs. Set pieces, particularly free-kicks, are rarely utilised to good effect and the first touch of so many players is poor.

Add in the inability to shoot with both feet for most of our supposed professionals and some seriously poor decision-making, and you have something of a crisis for the future of our domestic game.

To be honest, South African football has always been a poor example of ball retention, crosses and shooting, but two decades ago there were ball-juggling players to liven up the mind-numbing moments.

Today’s footballers are much better athletes: stronger, fitter and more determined. But their basic skills are just as bad as the generations before, making the future of the professional game bleaker by the season.

It is to be seen in the attendances, which remain poor.

Orlando Pirates might have moved back to a stunning stadium in their backyard, but they can’t get even 10 000 to watch them.

Sundowns are in the championship chase but the same number won’t bother to go to the Super Stadium on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Today’s derby between Chiefs and Pirates is unlikely to be sold-out, given both teams are out of the title race.

Spectators are turning more and more to televised football and watching better-class players from overseas who can score, shoot with both feet and know how to pass properly.

A decade ago, few township kids worried about English football … now they all seem to support Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United like their Indian and white contemporaries.

Unless the next generation of local footballers have been taught to command the basics of the game, South Africa will become like a disturbingly high number of other countries around the world where people still love the game, but get their kicks from watching overseas teams on TV rather than going to support their own.

• Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.

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