Johannesburg - A chill ran down my spine when I saw the 24-man Senegalese squad announced by coach Aliou Cissé on November 1.
This was in preparation for Saturday's 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifier against Bafana Bafana.
A glance at the Senegalese team showed that Bafana were real lightweights.
The 40-year-old mentor had only included two African-based players, and the team was teeming with players who ply their trade across top European leagues.
No matter what scale one used, it was obvious that, given the artillery at their disposal, Shakes Mashaba was armed with a small knife going into battle with Cissé, who was armed to the teeth.
That is the unfortunate situation of South African football.
No matter how much a South African national coach can search, the fact will remain that there is very little to choose from.
The question is: Why is South African football in this sticky situation? The accusing finger must be pointed at the leadership.
We have had enough time to produce players of high quality.
However, we have failed dismally.
One does not have to look any further than the domestic league.
A closer look at Premier Soccer League matches would show that our players still commit elementary schoolboy mistakes.
One would be appalled if one was to compile statistics of how many passes go astray; how many shots are on target and how many stunning goals are scored.
The players who do score some stunning goals, such as Hlompho Kekana, tend to do it once in a while rather than week in and week out.
We don’t have players who can convert at least one or two out of three free kicks from a favourable position.
Instead, week in and week out, we see free kicks ballooned way over the crossbar if not way off the target.
Our football remains a game of “finder-finder” or “chayisa”, as they call it in the townships, with players trying tricks that sometimes work, but most of the time fail.
It continues to be guesswork.
Which brings me to two stories related to me by a former member of the Bafana technical team.
One incident happened when the national team went to camp in Germany during their preparations for the 2010 World Cup.
A senior player who was earning a very high salary at his club failed so dismally to place corner kicks and free kicks that one of the physical trainers had to guide him on how to get his posture right.
Another incident relates to a player who quipped after a defeat: “How can we win football matches when the coach uses a torch to teach us football?”
The torch being referred to was a laser pointer that the coach – who was a foreigner – used when explaining tactics on the board.
Our football needs total dismantling and a fresh start with a proper vision that will once more produce quality players such as Steve “Kalamazoo” Mokone who went to compete excellently in Europe, Patrick “Ace” Ntsoelengoe, who is the only Hall of Fame recipient in the North American Soccer League, and Jomo Sono, who used to bamboozle other players while rubbing shoulders with the likes of Pelé at New York Cosmos. No matter what Saturday's score was, South African soccer still has a long way to go.
Here is the 24-man Senegal squad for you to make up your mind:
Abdoulaye Diallo (Çaykur Rizespor‚ Turkey)‚ Khadim Ndiaye (Horoya‚ Guinea)‚ Pape Seydou Ndiaye (Niary Tally)
Saliou Ciss (Valenciennes‚ France)‚ Fallou Diagne (Werder Bremen‚ Germany)‚ Lamine Gassama (Alanyaspor‚ Turkey)‚ Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli‚ Italy)‚ Ibrahima Mbaye (Bologna‚ Italy)‚ Kara Mbodj (Anderlecht‚ Belgium)‚ Abdallah Ndour (Racing Strasbourg‚ France)‚ Zargo Touré (Lorient‚ France)
Mohamed Diamé (Newcastle United‚ England)‚ Pape Kouly Diop (Espanyol‚ Spain)‚ Idrissa Gana Gueye (Everton‚ England)‚ Cheikhou Kouyaté (West Ham United‚ England)‚ Pape Alioune Ndiaye (Osmanlispor‚ Turkey)‚ Cheikh N’Doye (Angers‚ France)‚ Younouss Sankharé (Lille‚ France)
Famara Diédhiou (Angers‚ France)‚ Mame Biram Diouf (Stoke City‚ England), Diao Baldé Keita (Lazio‚ Italy)‚ Moussa Konaté (Sion‚ Switzerland)‚ Sadio Mané (Liverpool‚ England)‚ Ismaïla Sarr (Metz‚ France).
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