SA are still years behind the Spains and Englands of world football, as the best in the country never get spotted

2012-06-09 00:00

MOST Bafana Bafana fans had their prayers to the football gods answered this week when Pitso Mosimane finally ran out of luck with pretty much everybody and was sent packing. Patience with the former SuperSport United mentor had simply run out and it is nothing short of a miracle that he managed to hold on to his job for so long after the farcical embarrassment that was Bafana’s 2012 Afcon qualifying campaign.

The timing of the sacking is not ideal, with Bafana already one game into their journey to the Brazilian World Cup in 2014. After hosting the showpiece in 2010, it is crucially important that Bafana take their place along the world’s best in South America. Failure to do so would indicate that 2010 did nothing to help us improve the sport in our country. But it’s not looking too promising at the moment. Bafana need to finish top of their group in order to stand any chance of progressing to Brazil. Once they do that they will face the winner of one of the other nine African qualifying groups in a home-and-away tie, with the winner booking a ticket to the World Cup. Bafana have the Central African Republic, Ethiopia and Botswana in their qualifying group and on paper should waltz through to the knockout leg. But last weekend’s display against Ethiopia — a 1-1 draw at home — confirmed that Bafana are going to make it as difficult for themselves as possible.

Today’s match in Gaborone against Botswana is simply a must-win. Interim coach Steve Komphela has guaranteed a result — brave talk considering Bafana’s recent record. In the meantime, Safa have shortlisted five names as a potential replacement for Mosimane.

Komphela is one, while Moroka Swallows boss Gordon Igesund is the favourite to take over the reins of what, at times, seems like a near impossible job. Gavin Hunt, Neil Tovey and Shakes Mashaba are the other three names on the shortlist.

If Safa end up giving the job to anybody but Komphela, then Bafana will have had no less than three coaches over their group stage qualifying campaign — which is six matches long. And with a group of players as down and out as Bafana’s, this hardly seems like an approach that will work. Surely a new coach should have been decided on before the qualifying campaign began to bring about a sense of stability to the camp. And if whoever that coach was slipped up in the first match, then he should have been kept on as the guy who was trusted with taking the squad to Brazil. Pitso clearly never had that trust from his bosses, so why was he there in the first place?

It has all turned into a bit of a shambles.

There is a school of thought — a sensible one, too — arguing that Bafana’s problems will remain regardless of who the coach is and that Pitso should not be blamed for these problems. It is not without merit. Developmentally, South Africa still finds itself years behind the Spains and Englands of world football.

Throughout the country, young and talented footballers go through their youth without their ability being nurtured by a higher body. Often these talents are accommodated by local Vodacom League sides, but they don’t go any further than that. If they are lucky, these players will make it to the NFD or even a PSL club, but the chances of this happening are slim.

The gap between junior football and senior football has become far too wide in this country. Promising young players enter a footballing wilderness once they leave their coaches and team-mates at school.

These players should be identified at a young age and placed in developmental schools of excellence, funded by Safa, that cater for age groups moving right from U11s through to U23s — in all regions of the country. PSL clubs should then be able to approach these developmental schools whenever they go shopping.

A perfect case is Free State Stars striker Edward Manqele. At 24, Manqele has only recently earned his PSL stripes. He has made such an impression that he earned his first national cap this year after less than 20 games of top-flight football. How does a guy who makes such an impression in such a short time only get spotted by a PSL club at 24? And where was he before Free State Stars? Well, your guess is as good as mine. He has literally come out of nowhere. A player of Manqele’s obvious ability should have been identified in his teens, wrapped in cotton wool and developed into a lethal goal scorer. He should have been in a PSL squad by the age of 21 at the latest. But that has not been the case.

Instead, Bafana pick their squads based on the big-money names that make up Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns. They must be the best in the country if they’re earning that much money and playing for those big teams, right? Wrong. The best in the country, sadly, never got spotted. And if they did, they would have had to break into the “big three” to earn a national call-up. Just ask Erwin Isaacs: 135 appearances for Santos since 2003 and one of the most feared attacking midfielders in the PSL over that time. Number of Bafana Bafana caps? One. I doubt that would be the case if he played in Jozi.

Bafana have a long way to go. Let’s hope the next chapter of the journey starts with a comfortable win today. Heaven knows, it’s been long enough since we saw one of those.

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