SA football well off the pace

Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)
Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)

Patriotism is a great asset, but sometimes it can blind you.

You see, I have never lived in another country or even hold a second passport.

I know that there are South Africans who do.

So I only know and have lived in this country except for short visits either on business or holiday in other countries.

As a youngster, I watched my dad play football and I also played the game as a youngster,

My late dad was also a great story teller and regaled us with some juicy anecdotes about the game.

As a result of the combination above, I developed a great affinity to the game.

I was fortunate to end up reporting on the game that I love. Some have at some stage even envied and pointed out to me that I got paid for attending and reporting on matches while a myriad of spectators have to pay to watch.

So just like everybody who has followed the domestic game intensely, I was agog with excitement at the return of Absa Premiership action this past weekend following a continental Under-23 tournament and festive induced siesta.

But to say I was disappointed with what was on offer, would be the understatement of the century.

For years, I have said that our football is way behind the countries we are supposed to be competing with. But Saturday evening's match between Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns, brought this into sharp focus.

The match was boring to say the least.

More seriously, the players on the field did not display the quality you would expect when two top sides in the country meet.

There was no sense of urgency, no direction and the game was littered with schoolboy errors.

But what got my goat the most was the commentators and studio experts raving about how great a game it was.

One understands that broadcasters pay a lot of money to buy broadcast rights and it is to be expected that their employees cannot be expected to criticise a product that puts bread on their tables.

However, we the viewers can see crap when we are fed some.

And that game, let alone most of the football displayed throughout the weekend, was bad.

I have already read somewhere the excuse that rustiness resulted in the below-par football dished out this weekend.

We can fool ourselves as much as we want but the fact is that our football is bad and the standard very low.

We don't have to look any further than the fact that South Africa is ranked No 74 in the world out of 209 countries.

We are not even ranked inside the top 15 in Africa.

This should be a source for concern, but instead we expect our country to not only qualify, but also do well in events such as the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and the Soccer World Cup.

South Africans seem to forget that the countries ranked above us globally and on the continent are the ones we have to compete with to make an impact at the AFCON and World Cup.

We also wonder why our junior and women national teams bomb out in the first round of global events when they qualify, let alone the fact that they qualify so sporadically rather than consistently.

There need to be a serious plan to improve our football and once this is done, it will show by improvement in our world ranking.

For now, we should stop fooling ourselves that ours is one of the best domestic leagues in the world and work on radically improving the standard.

S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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