George Dearnaley

Time to grow up Bafana

2008-09-05 03:11

George Dearnaley

Everyone and his aunty is putting the boot into Bafana's performance against Tunisia on Sunday night.

Some may argue that it is justifiably so, but I don't think we can only point the finger at the team. I think the problems with our football team are merely an extension of the problems within our own society.

There is a culture of entitlement in South Africa - hard work is not rewarded as much as knowing the right people, or being a part of the right group of people. Things come too easy for some people, whether it be a free 4x4 vehicle or the winning of a tender because someone knows someone - we read about these things all the time.

Does this rub off on our young players? We used to see hundreds of kids kicking balls on every imaginable scrap of surface, but in recent years, while school football has fallen apart, the incidence of crime at school has shot through the roof - it's much easier to pull a knife on another kid and take his cellphone, than to go out and work for some cash.

Trick or two

Our footballers plying their trade in South Africa benefit from arguably the best infrastructure and organisation of any league in Africa. Perhaps that has made them the softest bunch of players on the continent.

Our local football culture also rewards players who can do a trick or two and impress the crowd. Our own fans do not acknowledge a great tackle or an attempted 30-yard through pass - they prefer to applaud when a player stands on the ball or dummies an opponent sending him the wrong way - they have not worked out yet that it is goals that are the single most important element of football.

Local players are also scared to make mistakes in front of the crowd, so there is a lot of caution in their play. Most passes are sideways or backward - the theory is that you are keeping possession - but as anyone who has played the game will tell you, "it's not how much you have, it's what you do with it that counts!"

We look great

Bafana attempted over 500 passes against Tunisia, while our opponents attempted around 300. 200 more passes! I have to ask where they were passing and who to? Mindless passes across the back four, while the midfield stands around watching and the strikers try and find space among four defenders.

We get away with it in South Africa - the crowd starts to buzz, four passes, five passes - ha! The opposition can't get the ball, we look great!


A lot of fans will argue about playing a long ball forward. "It's not African. We are playing like Europeans!"

It actually doesn't matter who you copy or borrow from, it's about winning. Ask Brazil if they knock a long ball forward now and then. If every match was a friendly and there were points awarded for entertainment, we would be among the top 10 in the world - we really can entertain given half a chance. But the cold truth is that top class football is about winning first. And you need goals to win games.

Aimless passing

Zambia's Chris Katongo scored 14 goals in less than half a PSL season then left for Scandinavia. No one beat him for the golden boot! Not one striker given an extra half a season to beat a total could do so!

Do we blame the strikers or the way the game is played here? Too many local matches include aimless passing on the half-way line and skilful moves on the touchline instead of clinical forward-passing in the attempt to create a goal-scoring chance.

Most local fans are immature when it comes to watching a game. I've seen fans whistling for a substitution of a player who gave the ball away twice in a row - both times attempting to unlock the defence with a through-ball. They can't work out that when one of those passes comes off, it will be a goal. But the 20 tricks on the touchline that they applaud have no hope of being a goal-scoring chance. Ever.

Natural talent

I've written before of the lack of physical presence in our national team. It was evident against Tunisia. Boys against men. This is also part of our national immaturity. I've read enough interviews where the player says his favourite meal is 'pap and vleis'. I'm no dietician but I know that if you want to perform at your peak physical best, then you need to be on a top professional diet.

Imagine what we could achieve with our natural talent if we played 'winning' football and sorted out the physiques.

Sorry this is such a long rant but I am fed up. The only team that has been worse than Bafana in this tournament is Nigeria - but they can still qualify!

  • 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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