Mark Gleeson

Junior failings haunt Bafana

2010-09-13 10:08
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
Mark Gleeson

For the umpteenth time, a South African junior side has flopped in the early stages of the African Championship qualifiers and will stand no chance of going on to play at one of the junior world cups.

The latest side eliminated is the Under-17 national team, shoved aside by the might of Burkina Faso at the weekend in the qualifying stages.

They join the Under-20 team on the sidelines after they were humiliated just a couple of months ago by the even mightier Lesotho, a country whose population could fit into a Joburg suburb.

For a country with as many resources and opportunities as South Africa, the record of our junior teams is appalling. We are arguably the only Confederation of African Football member to have commercial sponsors for the Under-17 and Under-20 teams yet consistently under achieve in the CAF competitions.

To play in the world championships every two years, teams have to qualify through the African championship, which is also staged every two years. Usually the top four teams at the African finals go onto to pay at the junior World Cup, sometimes it’s five. It is rare that South Africa even make the field for the African event, never mind the world finals.

Even at Under-23 level, which has a four yearly cycle and whose culmination is participation in the Olympic Games or the All-Africa Games, the malaise continues. South Africa went to the 2000 Games in Sydney, but none of the other tournaments, despite millions being pumped into the Under-23 programme by Sasol.

They, understandably, have finally decide they will no longer flog a dead horse and taken their money elsewhere.

Responsibility for the malaise must lie with the South African Football Association. How much effort goes into talent identification? What resources are put at the disposal of the teams to prepare? How much do they actually care about establishing a pipeline of players coming through, to ultimately represent the country at senior level?

Football politicians all pay lip service to development but when it comes to the proof it is patent that they fail. This weekend’s newspapers were full of stories of money that has gone missing in the SAFA structures and of soccer officials forming committees to kiss and make up among each other when they should rather be out there organising the players of tomorrow.

And what of the coaches? For years the appointments of national team coaches at junior level have gone to individuals with no proven track record at all.

The kids must rather play under coaches who have done the business at top club level, who have won trophies and who command the necessary respect. Instead they are given coaches who might have the necessary badges and been to places like Brazil to attend courses, but who lack the battle experience. It is like going to war with a teacher at the helm of the battalion rather than a general.

Persistent failings at Under-17 and Under-20 level already haunt Bafana Bafana. Development should not just be a catchphrase for glib sports politicians but an actual target to strive towards.

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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