TALKING FOOTBALL

WE need to start taking education seriously. I am not only referring to academic education - sport, cultural, moral and values need to be taught and learnt. South Africa’s period outside the mainstream of international football did not help our game.

Although we had some outstanding footballers during apartheid years, we were still way behind leading football nations. The only positive thing at that time was that our football was not contaminated by foreign ideas and values.

Currently, South African football is a concoction of a variety of football cultures. We are what John Cartwright calls “copy cat”. Safa has not helped the situation either through the lack of foresight. The football education section has failed to come up with what can be termed a “South African football coaching education syllabus”. We still have a mixture of outdated Dutch, German and Brazilian material. This has not helped in developing a special breed of coaches suitable for the development of local talent.

This has resulted in our game becoming a bloody, confused mess. We have been lazy to engage in discussions and research that can lead to us finding ourselves. The media and those in leadership positions have not helped the situation. There is a thinking that UEFA coaching qualifications are the best, hence those with these qualifications are getting preference in most coaching jobs, locally. Interestingly, we seem to forget the importance of national culture, beliefs, mentalities and the way of life as part of playing sport.

We seem to find it difficult to move away from the influences of our colonial masters. We are still trapped in the direct long-ball play. Football matches from lower levels to our professional division are dominated by kick and rush mentalities. The ball spends more time in the air than on the ground. Is this not a reason why municipalities in UMgungundlovu for instance, are unwilling to provide proper facilities for football?

It is said old habits are hard to break. The way we think, teach, play and watch the game needs to change if South African talent is to thrive in international football competitions. This idea of copying other nations needs to change. It is also important that we treat football as education. Any profession that pays handsomely requires certain levels of skills. The days of relying on luck and miracles are gone. Therefore, footballers must have the skills to play the game.

Currently, players have very limited abilities to perform their tasks. The biggest challenge is the lack of training, qualified coaches, facilities, equipment and parental support. May I also take this opportunity to send condolences to the family and club – Maritzburg United FC - for the death of Mondli Cele.

Unzima lo mthwalo.

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