George Dearnaley

Afcon offers exciting viewing

2008-09-05 03:14

George Dearnaley

My thanks to all those who provided feedback to last week's column. If anything it showed that there are a lot of people in this country who are passionate about SA football. Our challenge is always to try and balance our criticism of the negative with our appreciation of the positive.

Most of the feedback was fuelled by a disappointment in our national team's performance at the Afcon. But in general it seems most of us agree that fingers should not be pointed at the individual players or the coaching staff - the problems exist higher up in the boardrooms of our official structures. Lack of planning, lack of youth development programmes, lack of consistency in our coaching policies and in our focus on the game, and not the money in the game, have all contributed to this malaise.

There was some criticism of my opinion, and everyone is entitled to have a go, but one or two suggested that I go back and support my "beloved England"! I am speechless. I support Manchester United, AmaZulu and Bafana Bafana - I hate England! My dad is Scottish. Please keep the insults fair.

Minimum level of qualification

Lastly with regards last week's column, there were quite a few comments about the influence of cheap foreigners in our local league, and the impact they have had on the development and progress of our local youngsters.

I think it's fair to argue that there should be a minimum level of qualification for a foreign player to be signed by a local club. Foreign players should at least have a minimum number of international caps. There are too many clubs signing up cheap labour and hoping to sell them on in a few seasons to make some cash. But this does nothing for our youth development as our own youngsters are forced to sit on the sides watching our continental opposition gaining experience. There's a lot to be done if we hope to get ourselves back among the continents' elite.

Physical football is a joy

When Ghana's Junior Agogo ripped off his jersey after scoring against Nigeria in their Afcon quarter-final, there were more than a few heavyweight boxers who flinched in their boots. The man is built like a tank! John Mensah and Michael Essien are solid as well. The Nigerians, Ivorians, Angolans and Tunisians who have given their all, have combined great skill with brute force.

Cameroon and Egypt have not been as physical, but have got stuck in when needed. There has been a lot of brute force used to win tackles, shield the ball and create space in tight areas.

The hard fields and the high temperatures have also meant that players have had to rely a lot more on their physical conditioning, and that great technique is not enough at this level.


There were moments during the Egypt v Angola match that were breathless. Quick attacking movement with great touch and technique. The combination of pace and physical strength is definitely an asset of African football. The one obvious weakness has been the sometimes amateurish defending that has allowed soft goals. There have been some bad goalkeeping mistakes, but in general I have been very impressed with the goalkeepers.

I think there has been a lot to be excited about as an African football fan.

South Africa and Nigeria's poor performances aside, the standard has been very good. There have been some magnificent goals and some great performances by some of the biggest stars on the planet.

Champions of Africa

I'm still not convinced the Afcon should take place every two years. I think it should be every four years. But I think there should be an African tournament every two years but only for players based in Africa. This would give great exposure to the local based players and will also avoid the club v country conflict for the overseas-based players.

My money is still on Ivory Coast to win it, although Egypt are capable of surprising us all. Whoever wins it though, will thoroughly deserve the title of champions of Africa.

  • George is the associate publisher of Kick Off magazine and represented South Africa during the 1994 World Cup qualifiers.

  • 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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