Mark Gleeson

Amajita plunge SA into crisis

2010-12-13 07:25
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
Mark Gleeson

Another disastrous performance from a South African junior team again brings into sharp focus the crisis at development level in the country.

Amajita, the South African Under-20 side, lost to both Lesotho and Namibia in the COSAFA Under-20 Championships in Botswana, embarrassingly crashing out after just their first game and leaving the country’s football with egg all over its face.

With respect to our beloved neighbours, South Africa losing to Lesotho and Namibia constitutes a crisis. The combined population of both countries is significantly less than that of greater Johannesburg and as a result their resources are limited. Yet they beat us with consummate ease.

South Africa should be able to consistently to win against the smaller neighbours but since August the Under-20 side has lost three times to the plucky Basotho, who are going to the African Championships in Libya next year while our side did not make it past the first hurdle of qualification.

There are mitigating factors. Coach Khabo Zondo had a squad that was arguably far from his first choice as the best Under-20 players are at with Premier Soccer League clubs, who did not release them for the trip to Botswana.

There is no co-ordinated international calendar that sets out specific dates for age-group competition and forces club to release players. FIFA are considering introducing one.

But for the meantime, the South African Football Association cannot field the best possible team because the clubs do not want their up-and-coming talent going off with the under-20- side when they could be bettered monitored at home. It is understandable, give their investment, but does the country no good.

It is a function of the poor relations between SAFA and the PSL that this impasse exists. Were there a better relationship, I am sure clubs would be more inclined to help but the hostility between the Nematandani/Jordaan camp and that of Irvin Khoza continues to have wider ramifications for the game. While the elephants rumble, the grass is trampled.

It will also be the case in February when South Africa competes for the first time at the African Nations Championship. This is the new tournament that the Confederation of African Football introduced for home-based players only.

All the other African countries have fielded quasi-national teams in the tournament, which provides international exposure for the best African players who are still playing their club football on the continent.

But South African clubs have made no effort to make space on the PSL calendar for the event and as a result the CHAN team has been a motley bunch, a selection of players who cannot even get into the 18-man match squads of their own clubs. In other words they are not good enough for the PSL.

So the fact that this ‘Amabinneplaas’ crew beat both Botswana and Zambia in the qualifiers is remarkable.

Now they will play in a 16-team tournament in Sudan but the PSL continues at the same time and that means the squad that represents our country will be another hodge-podge.

Imagine if SAFA and the PSL co-operated for the greater good of South African football, we could send a team coached by Pitso Mosimane of the best PSL players, like Katlego Mphela, Morgan Gould, Siphiwe Tshabalala and Itumeleng Khune and it could go all the way and win.

But as things stand now, we just hope they are no embarrassment, like the Under-20s.

Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.

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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