As President Cyril Ramaphosa looks for ways to cut wasteful expenditure and instil austerity measures, one of the first things he needs to do is interrogate the seemingly noble plans of his ministers.
This week Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa announced that his department would host a football indaba. On the agenda would be a discussion on what is holding back the growth of football in our country.
Mthethwa said football was the biggest sport in the country and “the overall poor showing of football teams in their respective World Cups requires us to self-reflect and chart an inclusive way forward”.
On the surface this might sound sensible, but it is yet another instance of wasteful expenditure. We have Safa, whose mandate is to run football. It may not be that great, but there is fundamentally no crisis in this sport. Why does government have to hire an expensive venue, transport people across the country, accommodate them and feed them for days to assess why Bafana Bafana did not qualify for the semifinals of Afcon?
Was South Africa more entitled than any other country to win Afcon?
Granted, the team did not dish out great performances, but that does not need a whole government indaba to fix.
Yes, we did not qualify for the last World Cup, but only five teams from a continent of more than 50 countries did.
We have no inherent right to be at the World Cup, although we should strive to. And even if we deem ourselves a footballing giant that should be competing at the highest level, it is a matter that Safa should be sorting out with the coach and the players.
Am I saying there are no problems in football? No. There are problems, but none which cannot be identified and dealt with.
Banyana Banyana failed to proceed beyond the first round of the World Cup. It was patently clear that one of the main reasons they were knocked out so early was that most of the European, American and Asian competitors had fully fledged women football leagues that run for an entire season, whereas we don’t. The establishment of a women’s league next month is a move towards rectifying that. We don’t need an indaba to “find answers”.
With Amajita and Bafana Bafana there is probably a case to be made for interventions with the coaching set-up, but we do not need a delegation sipping on tea and coffee with biscuits to come to these conclusions.
I must say that I can already see this indaba starting with past players complaining about being neglected and local coaches moaning about the employment of foreign coaches, and so on and so forth.
I hope the president can stop this self-serving charade. At times people work, other times they want to give an impression that they are working. This is one such case.