Clem Sunter

Yes we did!

2010-07-08 08:27

As the Soccer World Cup 2010 enters its final phase, I have one takeaway from the tournament: teams count more than individuals. Yes, you have to have talented individuals; but it is the dynamic between them that makes or breaks the side.

The most important team for this event was Team South Africa which organised and hosted it. In this context, I would prefer to say we were there rather than “I was there” as advertised. The event is a superb example of what this country can do when it puts its collective mind to it.

From the construction companies that built the magnificent stadiums on time, to the Gautrain, to the absence of road works as promised on the major arteries, to all the committees, communities and officials who put the tournament together, to the police who stepped in when the security guards were on strike, to Bafana Bafana who left us on a high, to the fans and the inventor of the vuvuzela, to the public who put colourful flags on their cars, to all those service providers who made the visitors rave about South Africa because of their hospitality and service excellence – I say congratulations and thank you. I am really proud to be South African. You were all there when it counted.

Talking of teams, I have the following observations to make after watching most of the matches:

1. Teams need a natural pecking order. Thomas Muller, the German player, put it elegantly when asked to explain England’s dismal performance: “There are too many alpha males in the side – too many chiefs and not enough Indians.” Co-ordination is difficult under these circumstances.

2. Teams need a coach and captain they respect. So obvious but so true. The disintegration of the French team shows what happens when followers no longer respect leaders.

3. Teams need a strong sense of purpose. I got a sneaking feeling that for some teams (no names because I will allow you to make the choice) winning the World Cup simply was not a big enough deal. The real money lies in the national leagues, so outstanding individuals are tempted to protect themselves from injury and not give of their best.

4. Teams need a resilient strategy and tactics which can be adapted if the opposition comes up with a surprise of its own. Look at the way Holland beat Brazil and Germany demolished Argentina. Both were well-prepared, clinical performances arising out of careful study of the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses.

5. Teams need both good attacking and defensive capabilities. Although strikers get all the applause and publicity, think of how many goals were saved through excellent defence and remarkable goal-keeping. Goals saved always add up to more than goals scored in any soccer competition.

Whoever wins the cup, one thing is for sure. We did a good job of hosting the event. The only controversies were decisions by the referees and rules which do not allow penalty goals and video technology. Otherwise, FIFA and the sponsors are ecstatic.

Perhaps we should put in a bid to be the permanent host. The stadiums are ready and waiting and already there. To all the naysayers and critics of South Africa who thought we couldn’t: Yes we did!

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