Pressing Issues: SA football is a potpourri of disappointments

I had already settled on writing a column about Maritzburg United, but a series of events this week got me thinking otherwise.

So, forgive me if this column reads like a potpourri of issues because it is indeed that. Here we go:

Phakamani Mahlambi

News of the 21-year-old Mamelodi Sundowns striker being kicked out of Bafana Bafana’s camp ahead of the Cosafa Cup match against Botswana today is one of the indications of what’s wrong in our football.

According to reports, the player rocked up to the camp reeking of liquor.

No sooner had the news broken than a host of other allegations of bad behaviour on the striker’s part started tumbling out of the closet.

Some said he had been on the wrong side of Sundowns management for a while; others blamed his misbehaviour on his premature return from a sojourn overseas.

Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt pointed out that the signs had been there even during Mahlambi’s formative years with The Students.

That Mahlambi is a talented player is not in doubt, but the reality is that, if no drastic measures are taken to save him from this self-destructive behaviour, he will become a statistic and join the ever-growing number of promising young players who end up on the football scrapheap.

The number of such players is scary and South Africa can’t afford to continue to lose talented footballers this way.

Among the measures that need to be taken are:

. The media needs to expose this wayward behaviour so that it can be nipped in the bud;

. Club administrators must name and shame such players, and dish out punitive as well as corrective measures to save them from themselves; and

. Parents, relatives, friends and associates must play an advisory role rather than a destructive one.

Mark this as disappointment number one.

Under-20 national team

Amajita’s lacklustre performance at the 2019 Fifa Under-20 World Cup has been another huge disappointment.

They have continued the trend of South African football teams’ failure to proceed beyond the first round of global tournaments.

Coach Thabo Senong owes the nation an explanation about the basis on which he selected his squad.

When announcing his team, Senong dropped a sizeable number of players plying their trade overseas, without giving clear reasons for his decision.

As a result, the opening game against Argentina featured captain and goalkeeper Khulekani Kubheka, who had only played a handful of games for his NFD side, Cape Umoya. Why choose him to lead the team against a bunch of full-blown professionals? The rest, as they say, is history.

Maritzburg United

As mentioned above, this week’s column was supposed to be about this club, but, hey, football happened.

The suggested headline was going to be: “We have seen this movie many times and we know how it will end.”

I was going to start the piece by congratulating Eric Tinkler for saving the club from relegation.

However, the gist of the column was going to be that Tinkler is unlikely to finish the 2019/20 season in the hot seat.

Maritzburg, like many South African clubs, is known for continuously recycling coaches.

I would have appealed to Maritzburg and other local clubs to stop this tendency and give coaches a chance to establish and prove themselves so that they can build and leave a legacy.

However, Maritzburg’s victory in the NFD promotion play-offs has brought up the question of fairness.

Is it fair to give a club that finishes at the bottom of the Absa Premiership another bite at the elite league cherry, at the expense of the two that finish second and third in the lower division?

How does this enhance or develop our football?

These three topics are just some examples among the many factors that are stunting the development of our football.

As a result, there has been very little to celebrate in local football.

The unbridled joy that engulfed the country when we were awarded World Cup host status in 2010 proved to be short-lived.

Since then, there has been precious little to celebrate because, when it comes to both the events we participate in and those we host, we end up being unwelcome guests, if not bellicose hosts, as we leave the table while the festivities are still go on.

Something’s gotta give!


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