George Dearnaley

Bafana need a clear philosophy

2008-10-02 12:54
Sport24 columnist George Dearnaley (File)
George Dearnaley

There's been a longstanding argument in local circles as to the style of football our national team should play.

The ‘patriotic’ die-hards argue that we should not copy Europe, but rather focus on our ‘SA style’ or culture. There are others who suggest we should look to South America for inspiration. And there are a few more who want a purely African style – whatever that is – and even others who argue for a combination of all three!

I’ve always believed that your football team must play a formation and style that are representative of the players you have at the time. I don’t think it should be cast in stone as to how you play, but rather something a little more flexible based on what you have.

There are many formations a team can play from the ultra-defensive 5-4-1 to the expansive, attacking 3-3-4 formation. But there are also many variations of a formation – so you could play 4-5-1 but be very attacking with two wing-backs and three attacking central midfielders (six attacking players) or you could play a 4-4-2 formation with your entire midfield holding their ground in the centre of the field, and so only have two attacking players. “Don’t be a slave to your formation” was something drilled into my head by my late Dutch football coach Henk Bodewes. 

He argued that no team could play a ‘wide’ game if they didn’t have wingers in the team. You can’t play a long ball if you don’t have a target man. And so your strategy and style was something that had to be flexible within a consistent framework. You also can’t play fast attacking football with wingers one week, and then ultra-defensive ‘get behind the ball’ stuff the next week – that would be chaos.

So it has to be something in the middle and right now I ask ‘what is our local football philosophy?’

Consistent development programme

Kaizer Chiefs play a different style to that of Santos, but there are some similarities because of the type of player that is consistent in South Africa. The majority of our players are small in physique, athletic, skilful in confined areas and favour the short passing game – and so our football style should accommodate these characteristics.

After going 2-nil up against Malawi - and I know they were not the strongest opposition we will face - but the confidence came back, the passes were crisp and accurate, the movement off the ball was better, and the pace of the game was fantastic. We now have to have a consistent development programme that is based on this style of play – not on a formation – but on the short passing, quick movement, and neat inter-play style.

When all our junior national teams are playing the same style, it will be easier for the younger players to make the move up into the senior teams as the transmission will be much easier.

Brazil have always played a fluid short-passing game, mixed with skill, and it has won them more World Cups than anyone else. We can adapt from them based on what we have to work with – it’s not impossible. There is also no right answer as to who the coach should be – it’s a difficult job – and the best we can do, as football fans, is support the coach and get behind the team.


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