I read a story a few weeks ago about how the Australian Olympic officials had 'booked' the main swimming pool in Beijing two years in advance, so that their swimmers would have exclusive use of the facilities in the weeks ahead of the Olympic Games.
The Chinese officials who arrived at the pool a month before the Games began were horrified to find out that their very own swimming pool was not available to their swimmers for training. They accused the Australians of all sorts of sabotage, but had to find another pool to train in.
This might not stop the Chinese winning gold medals at swimming, but it illustrates the importance of forward planning. The Australians will have the advantage of having trained in the same pool they will swim for medals in and be used to the conditions - booked two years in advance!
I fear that there is no such thing as forward planning in our local football. It always seems a last minute decision to do something. I have heard from some very experienced officials and media people that Safa has never put together an international fixture list for an entire year. Even though the Fifa dates for international matches are known in advance, Safa can't seem to match these dates with games in advance.
Want to keep their best players
There are the obvious fixtures for African Cup of Nations qualifiers, and I'm sure once the draw is made, the fixtures for the Cosafa Cup tournament are also known, but this leaves about four or five other match days available for planning. Anyway, to cut a long story short, Bafana are now playing an international friendly against Australia in London, at the same time that the first leg semi-finals for the MTN 8 tournament will take place.
This means that players from Chiefs, Pirates, Sundowns and Swallows, who are selected for the Bafana match, will miss out on playing in a semi-final that could eventually bring in R8m in prize money for their clubs. The clubs will obviously want to keep their best players, but because it is a Fifa sanctioned date, they have to release their players for the match.
Our overseas-based players have no distractions; they can all play against Australia, but with 10 months until the start of the Confederations Cup tournament, we really should be using our best squad of players, not mixing and matching whoever is available. A match in London, on the doorstep of the UK tabloid press, who have sniped away at our ability to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup, presents us with a great opportunity to show them what we can do on the field. Conversely, it may also show them what we can't do on the field if it all goes wrong, and without your best available squad, you don't give yourself your best chance of success. Forward planning!
Vuvuzela raises its snout again
Sorry to raise this again (sorry about the pun too!) but it won't go away (literally). I was recently accused of being racist, colonial, 'out of touch with African culture' and a whole host of other accolades after moaning about the mindless noise made by the vuvuzela. I might have made a mistake in accusing everyone with a vuvuzela of being mindless - sorry about that - but most people with vuvuzelas at matches are not there to watch the game.
There is no way you can discuss the formation of the opposition, or chat about the lack of penetration up front, or seek advice from your neighbour on who the new young player at the back is while blowing your lungs out on the plastic menace. So you can argue "we are there to have fun" but what fun is it for the guy next to you who wants to watch the match and chat about what he sees? Perhaps the solution is to create a special section for vuvuzelas - preferably right at the top of the stadium.
But please don't use the 'racist' tag or throw in 'African culture' as a reason. I played at a lot of townships across the country from 1992 until 2000 and there were no vuvuzelas. None! There was singing, and shouting (and some swearing) and a few instruments to make noise - the air raid siren powered by a car battery was famous at Soccer City. The brass band that played at Swallows home matches was a huge hit, and one or two souls with various other 'instruments' added to the vibe - but a plague of vuvuzelas was not part of the vibe.
I even did a survey among about 80 local football fans on my email forum - and more than 60% hate them! The best comment was: "These are the okes who ask you 'who scored' because they don't watch. At worst you could learn a tune or two before inflicting your noise on the rest of us.
George is Media24's Mr Soccer.
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