Bafana Bafana head coach, Hugo Broos, continues to make the headlines for all the wrong reasons as he remains on course to raffle feathers in the South African football fraternity. The 70-year-old Belgian mentor has, without fail, been in the middle – with one side in complete agreement with him, while the other side is left in disbelief of his rhetoric.
The coach, from the onset, has been so blunt in his media addresses that he has created a habit of leaving his bosses scratching their heads, hoping he doesn’t concede an own goal. He’s left them in disbelief a couple of times and they surely would have hoped they could somehow censor him. His last address, following Bafana Bafana’s come-from-behind 2-1 loss away to Morocco in their opening 2023 Afcon qualifiers, has set the cat among the pigeons! The local football fraternity, if the reaction to Broos’ recent statements is anything to go by, is divided on the opinion. Having said that, one feels coach Broos is right with what he said. In fact, nothing is new from what the coach has said about the state of our football and Soccer Laduma readers will remember that everything he has said has been an open secret to our football for years. These are issues that have been raised and experienced before on several occasions. These are problems that have been discussed already, but unfortunately, without any action or solution.
What is undeniable about the coach’s remarks is the simple fact that we are not who we think we are, in the bigger scheme of things. We are definitely not where we should be and there is a lot that we are not doing right. For a developed country like South Africa to still be gloating about the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations success, 26 years later, is an indictment and a true reflection of the standard of our football. Having said that, there are reasons for all the coach’s concerns, starting from development – which is a crucial component of the Beautiful Game – and any footballing nation that cares about the future will always take care of their development. Is it the first time you hear about lack of proper development in this country? No! The issue of junior national teams’ inactivity is nothing new, previous senior and junior national team coaches have lamented it, but here we are, still pointing at it as one of the areas that need to improve. How long before we start seeing action and solutions being implemented? The level of football in our professional leagues, is it the first time that someone questions the standard of our leagues? Certainly not!
While one understands the coaches’ frustrations, it would be foolhardy to point a finger at the players when you are talking about the drop in the standard of football in our leagues. First of all, players are not responsible for the standard and professionalism of the game, so if you are going to blame them, then you are definitely barking at the wrong tree. Secondly, some, if not most, of our players have not undergone proper development and were identified either through tournaments or word of mouth. Can you blame them for making the most of their opportunities rather than blaming the system? If teams stop investing in their youth development structures and rather go for the tried and tested, who have been around the block and seen it all, or free agents, how is that a reflection on the players? Teko Modise and Reneilwe Letsholonyane, two of the greatest talents this country has ever produced, only started life in the elite league at 24 because of the very same problems facing South African football. Now, can you imagine if these two were developed properly and broke into the DStv Premiership in their teenage years? These are fundamental issues that need to be addressed, so coach Broos is not wrong to raise them, but he’s doing exactly what his predecessors have already bemoaned. So, what’s the way forward? What is the solution, coach?
Mostly it is not what you say but how and when you say it that counts. This is where the coach gets it completely wrong and starts to sound like someone with a foot-in-mouth disease. His blunt approach may get people talking, but coming from someone who was roped into the country to do service from abroad, it smacks of arrogance, is condescending, downright disrespectful and looking down on the very same people he’s been asked to serve! This raises a question. In defence of our own who have lambasted our head coach, when you – Mr Broos – signed up to coach Bafana, did you not do your due diligence? Did you not know what you were getting yourself into? If you did, then surely you must have felt you had it in you to change things around. Have you done so? Finally, what are you doing about the situation right now? Common sense dictates that if nothing changes, something has to give. You either abort the mission or improve it, simple as that!
Even your lame subsequent apology added more salt to the wound rather than diffuse the situation, as it further proved the perception of your arrogance and undermining the hand that feeds you. It is tantamount to saying, “I’m sorry if I offended you,” knowing very well that the person you’re apologizing to was offended by your reckless utterances. There’s nothing genuine about such an apology; if anything, it is equal to showing a middle finger to the victim. Patronizing them even more!
Critically, the arrogant approach from the coach doesn’t only hurt the football fraternity but it also has an ability to destroy the little gains we’ve made as a country. It is one thing to be brutally honest, but it is a whole different story to look down on others and act as if you’re one of the football gods! Once again, the problem isn’t just what the coach says but how and when he says it. If coach Broos had utilised the best players we have in the country and they failed, then he would have grounds to justify his criticism. Any coach worth his salt will know that your players make the system, not the other way around. You work with what you have. The fact that there are some top players who, for one reason or the other, were never even considered for selection – despite their regular top-quality displays for their respective clubs – without any proper explanation takes away from the coach’s arguments. Why not explore every avenue before throwing in the towel?
It is rather disappointing that some are falling for coach Brooks’ inexcusable attitude without realising that he only lambastes our football after hitting a brick wall. It is only after failing to win that he starts coming up with all sorts of excuses, blaming everyone but himself, when he boldly declared that the media must kill him if he failed to qualify for the next Afcon, in his very first press conference as Bafana Bafana coach. At the end of the day, he’s representing the whole country and this is not club football, where he can do as he pleases. He’s accountable to the whole country. He should treat South Africans as he’s one of them, not as a semi-god of our football with everyone below him. You can’t undermine South Africa and be happy to get a salary from the very same people at the end of the month. You need to toe the line, otherwise you’re not going to get far with this project.