Fikile Mbalula, I hope you are reading this. You really should be seeing this as the Sports Minister of this country because Soccer-Laduma is regarded as the bible of South African football. You need to seriously rethink your comments about the Bafana Bafana players who did duty in the Chan for our country. Yes, as Sports Minister of South Africa, you have a right to be disappointed, but where do you get off slating South African, belittling them, calling them losers and unbearable, useless individuals. The great Nelson Mandela recognised sport as an instrument of unity - a tool to pull South Africans together. You have used it to break people down, destroy their confidence and hurt them in a personal, ugly way. Most South African soccer players that reach the highest level of the game in this country do not do so because of Safa or because of the great job the government is doing with soccer in this country. They reach the very top despite the kick in the teeth soccer gets from its so-called custodians. Moeneeb Josephs is a hero in this country; a beacon of hope for the kids in Mitchell’s Plain where he grew up. He showed them that despite great poverty and challenging circumstances, through hard work one can be lifted out of the most challenging of situations.
Instead of sitting in the VIP boxes of soccer stadiums in this country and throwing stones, why don’t you make it your mission to get soccer into top government schools. Make them give soccer the same resources that they give to cricket and rugby. Make top universities in this country take soccer as seriously as they do rugby. That way you give soccer, and soccer players, a fighting chance to compete with the best in the world - the way rugby and cricket has done for South Africa.
Now, let’s put some perspective on CHAN and what Bafana has done since Gordon Igesund has taken over …
How does South Africa host a tournament like Chan (which allows only locally based players to be selected) and then continue with its domestic programme? Having this situation means the national coach cannot make use of some of the best domestic based players in the country. How does our Sports Minister allow that to happen? It’s a joke. The very players that we most need, the players with the most continental experience against the best on the continent having had a great run in the African Champions League, are the ones the national coach cannot use. No disrespect to the players that did duty for South Africa, but let’s be completely honest. That Bafana team picked was not the best-of-the-best of our domestic talent. It was, for the most part, the best of the rest. Even those who are considered first choice Bafana players had to be dragged from their clubs, which hardly allows for adequate preparation work preceding the tournament. Some may disagree, but I think had Oupa Manyisa, Andile Jali, Happy Jele, Kermit Erasmus, Ronwen Williams, David Mathebula (to name but a few) been available, it may have made a difference to Bafana’s fortunes.
Some are now calling for the head of Gordon Igesund. They want the axe to drop. Are you serious? Two months ago Bafana beat the number one team in the world, Spain. This was not luck. It was not by parking the bus but by out-thinking and out-playing them. Igesund out-coached the world’s best. Since Igesund took over, Bafana have gone from being ranked 87th in the world to 54th. The goal-scoring problem that existed in the national team has finally improved when you consider that under Igesund, Bafana scored 41 goals in 29 games. Igesund has won 14 of 29 games, drawn seven and lost just eight. His win percentage is just under 50%. The Bafana team that defeated Spain had an average age of 24. And if that is not evidence that we are on the right track, then I’m not sure what is. As we head to 2018 World Cup qualifying, these same players that defeated Spain will be in their prime. Add one or two young gems and all of a sudden, when the full Bafana team is assembled, we are quite intimidating. Maybe even world beaters.
I don’t think changing our colours and changing our name are going to change our fortunes. Those are the easy changes. Those are the kinds of changes that have seen Bafana become the laughing stock of the country and the continent when it comes to the number of coaches we have hired and fired. With all respect to Danny Jordaan, it’s changes at grassroots level that need to be addressed. It’s sorting out the unhealthy relationship that exists between the PSL and Safa that is hurting South African soccer.
There is a saying Mr Mbalula, that a fish starts rotting from the head, not the tail. So before attacking the players that you say have been found wanting on the international stage, maybe have a look at the system from which they have graduated and aim your vitriol there.