Building... and more building!
Sport24 columnist S’Busiso Mseleku (File)
How many times have we heard the words “we are building”, in South African soccer?
There is nothing wrong with building, but there is something very wrong when you keep on building without any results!
Now Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund tells us that he is building the team for the 2018 Soccer World Cup. He says he has taken a few players who will be 25 by then, with him to Morocco for this week’s international friendly match.
There are words and phrases that have been used so many times in reference to our football that maybe they should just be banned and be replaced with action.
It is statements such as ‘we are building’, ‘we have turned the corner’ and the ‘we are going back to the drawing board’ that need to be banned and be replaced with vigorous action.
The problem with our football is that we have been building from the roof. Any sane person will tell you that for any house to stand firm, you need a solid foundation.
What needs to happen in our football, is what the newly-elected South African Football Association (SAFA) president Danny Jordaan has termed “total reconstruction”.
We need to build from the junior teams upwards.
So, forget about Igesund building a Bafana Bafana team for the World Cup because there is no way he can do that when we have weak if not non-existent junior teams.
We can’t have players emerging at Bafana Bafana and expect them to perform at the international level without having done so as juniors.
When you look at all successful football-playing nations such as Brazil, Germany and Spain, to mention just three - even Ghana, Nigeria and Ivory Coast on our continent - they have done well at international junior competitions such as the Under-17 World Cup, Under-20 World Cup and the Olympic Games which is contested by the national Under-23 sides.
Here in South Africa, we need a vigorous youth programme that will ensure that there is a synchronised development of players from as young as six years of age moving through the relevant stages until making it to Bafana Bafana.
We should have learned a long time ago that things do not happen in a vacuum.
Even the 1996 success which we are still clinging to for dear life, did not just happen miraculously. It was due to a well orchestrated plan that started in 1994 when the late SAFA president Solomon “Stix” Morewa roped in Clive Barker as coach.
When South Africa was awarded the hosting rights at the eleventh hour, the then football leadership came with a Four Nations tournament that was played in a round-robin fashion similar to the system used in the first round of the Africa Cup of Nations.
They also introduced the Nelson Mandela Challenge where top nations were invited to play against Bafana Bafana.
These two tournaments ensured that the national team was kept active as they no longer had to participate in the qualifying rounds, as South Africa was now the host nation.
It was at that stage that we saw a number of South African players going overseas.
We should have built from there but we went into slumber land.
So let’s start afresh and reconstruct from our junior teams. It is unhealthy to have inactive junior teams that are only resuscitated when there are qualifiers to be played.
Young players must be kept active in leagues week in and week out. They must participate in international tournaments even before engaging in continental and global qualifiers.
That’s the way to go rather than thinking we can start building at the senior national team level.
On another note, the coaching merry-go-round has started in the Premier Soccer League (PSL). Just this weekend, two coaches Manqoba Mgqithi of Lamontville Golden Arrows and Clinton Larsen of Bloemfontein Celtic resigned from their posts.
This left questions on whether they really jumped or were pushed. That question unfortunately is always left unanswered.
Unlike Larsen’s departure that came after a 4-0 pasting by Mamelodi Sundowns in the Telkom Knock-out, Mgqithi’s exit was a bit of a shocker seeing that it followed a 3-2 away victory over Bidvest Wits in the same competition.
Ironically, Dutchman Johan Neeskens left Sundowns after being beaten by the same Celtic in the final of the same tournament last season.
Some observers sensed that Mgqithi might have known something that some of us might not have known as he did not celebrate any of the three goals his side put past Wits but was shown on television stone-faced right through the match even after his side scored.
And it raised eyebrows that no sooner had he “resigned” Mark Harrison had flown from Cape Town, leaving Chippa United to replace him.
Strange things do happen in football and people still wonder why we love this game so much.
It’s the unpredictability.S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.
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