What Do You Mean We Have No Superstars!
14 November 2012
Gordon Igesund made quite a provocative statement in his last press conference when he stated that South Africa don’t have any superstars. As soon as I heard him say it, I thought, ‘Oh boy! He is going to be hammered now.’
Because on the face of it, the statement seems hollow, it almost begs to be argued and debated. I mean I have seen Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates players walk through an airport and watched fanatical supporters go crazy. I’ve seen 80 000 people pack FNB to watch the Soweto derby, and you can be sure that for each of those fans, those players in their eyes are superstars. When Bernard Parker bangs in another goal – Superstar! When Sifiso Myeni scores a wonder goal – Superstar! When Teko Modise bends in a free-kick – Superstar! But then I’m taken back to a Benni McCarthy interview I did some years ago where he said, and I’m paraphrasing, “Players in South Africa think that once they have made it to Chiefs or Pirates that they have made it big. They ain’t made s**t!”
So, one of South Africa’s greatest coaches has said we have no superstars. One of South Africa’s most decorated players and arguably one of South Africa’s greatest exports has said it, and yet it still it doesn’t ring true when you look at the passion of the South African football fan. And that’s when the penny drops. Yes, we have world-class passion. We have world-class hope and potential. We have some world-class memories of our greats. We certainly have world-class resources and a world-class amount of money in the bank for Safa to invest in our football. We ran a world-class World Cup in 2010. But we certainly don’t have a world-class national team right now. We arguably don’t even have a player in the top 100 players in the world right now. Go on, pick 10 different World XIs and are there any South African players in those teams?
But here is the exciting bit. How many Zambians would be in those 10 World XIs? I don’t think any. In fact, if you picked an African XI right now, how many Zambian players would be in that team? Be honest, between the Drogbas, Gervinhos, Essiens, Obis, Eto’os and Toures, I’m not sure there would be any Zambians. And yet Zambia are reigning African Champions. Gordon is currently putting together not a team of our most popular entertainers, he is arguably not even going to have our 11 most individually gifted players on the pitch. What he is putting together is our best team. He is working on the premise that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That the team is greater than what it is expected to be when you look at the players, because they are working as a team and not as 11 individuals.
Can it work for Bafana? Well, it worked for Banyana when they became the first South African national football team to beat Nigeria in competition and qualify for the final of the African Women’s Championship. It worked for a Greece team in 2004 when they miraculously won the Euro. It worked for Zambia when they defeated the Ivory Coast, a team of superstars, to lift the Afcon and be crowned Kings of Africa. With all our talent, with our passion and with the right players, there is every chance it will work for Bafana!