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Our Football Has Never Been In A Better State!

The past couple of days have been excellent for South African football and one can only hope that we are finally getting our act together and fulfilling the potential we’ve been showing of late. If recent, promising results and performances are anything to go by, our football has never been in a better state. 
Orlando Pirates’ impressive 4-3 win away to Al Ahly in the second leg of the CAF Confederation Cup semi-final means they will be playing Tunisian side Etoile Sportive du Sahel in the final following a 5-3 aggregate win against the Egyptian giants. The Buccaneers were instrumental in ensuring that at least three CAF club competition spots were allocated to South Africa following their recent good form in the continental competitions. Now, after reaching the Confederation Cup final, Pirates are on the verge of ensuring that South Africa’s ‘Big Three’ will, for the first time, all be taking part in the CAF Champions League, as winning the Confed Cup will send Bucs straight into the Champions League alongside Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs. This augurs well for our football and Bafana Bafana as more of our players will be exposed to the rigours of playing continental club football. And who knows… we might even go as far as retaining our four spots in the CAF competitions, which was withdrawn due to our teams’ poor performances in these competitions. Perhaps more of our teams will also start taking these games with a greater degree of seriousness. 
While we celebrate Bucs’ success story, Bafana Bafana gave one of their best displays in a long time against Costa Rica. Although the second half saw very little to write home about, partly because we had to play without a striker, the inter-play and fluid passes between our midfielders was a marvel to watch. The combination between Andile Jali, Thulani Serero and Bongani Zungu particularly was really appealing to the eye. If only we can do it more regularly going forward, instead of playing in patches. The freedom with which our players expressed themselves was also exciting to see and, if that performance is anything to go by, Coach Shakes Mashaba may have turned the corner after the recent shaky performances by the team. 
Amajimbos, our national U17 team, are also fine-tuning their final preparations for their maiden FIFA Junior World Cup appearance starting this weekend. This is what South African football development has been yearning for and it is encouraging to see our young lads getting an important opportunity to measure themselves against some of the best youngsters in the world. Good luck to Coach Molefi Ntseki, his technical team and the boys!
Muhsin Ertugral, who recently worked as part of the FIFA Technical Study Group for the recent U20 World Cup in New Zealand, hits the nail on the head when he talks about the need for younger players to get a chance in the PSL. Here’s someone who has a history of producing and promoting quality youngsters and a coach who is never afraid to throw a youngster into the deep end when he feels he is good enough, regardless of the club he’s coaching. He’s never been one to protect his job through instant results at the expense of future stars. “The most important thing is that we, as coaches, give these boys a chance. This is what I’m trying to do at the moment with my MultiChoice Diski Challenge team – giving them exposure and making sure they play more games. Young players cannot grow in the stands, they have to be on the field…”
This is one of the points Ertugral makes in this week’s edition as we preview Amajimbos’ much-anticipated participation in the World Cup. The experience these boys will gain from these games will go a long way in shaping them for the future, however what happened with some of the 2000 Olympic Games squad members should be a lesson for our football. We need to look after our young players, and guide and protect them whatever it takes. We have lost so many young, promising players through the cracks in our production chain. These are the players who are expected to take South African football back to where it belongs – among the best on the continent. 
This is the generation that is expected to produce players that will be nominated for awards like CAF African Player of the Year! And speaking of CAF awards, congratulations to Pirates’ Kermit Erasmus, Oupa Manyisa, Thamsanqa Gabuza and Felipe Ovono for their CAF nomination! Another feather in Bucs’ cap…      
Banyana Banyana and Basetsana are also looking to fly the South African football’s flag high when they start their 2016 Rio Olympic Games qualifiers and FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup respectively, while Bafana Bafana are preparing for the Chan qualifier against Angola. It is good to see our national teams active and SAFA needs to be commended for ensuring that our teams are kept busy. Of course there is still room for improvement but, having said that, it is probably fair to say that our football has never been in a better state!
Cheers, VeeJay 


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