I'm tired of the same old excuses. I'm tired of the pathetic results. I'm tired of hearing that we only have one decent striker in the whole country. I'm tired of the officials who run the game in our country who brag about the amount of sponsorship revenue they are bringing in without any comment on the standard of play and the state of the local game. I'm tired of empty stadiums - testament to the lack of entertainment and quality dished up. I'm tired of our national teams at all levels not qualifying for major tournaments. I'm tired of being asked "what's wrong with SA soccer?"
It is common practice in any major corporation or business that the leaders of that operation take full responsibility when things go horribly wrong. If SA soccer can be considered a business, and it brings in enough revenue to suggest it is very big business, then if we had to list the things that have gone 'horribly wrong' in the last few years, there is absolutely no doubt that the leadership of this business have not done a decent job.
The opportunity to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup is a magnificent achievement and all those officials involved in this process should be highly commended. But at the same time, this achievement fades into obscurity when you consider the number of problems that beset the local game.
Our Under-15 teams have been caught with age cheats, our Under-17, Under-20 and Under-23 teams never qualify for any of their major tournaments, our senior national team is on the verge of missing out on Afcon 2010 and would therefore not have qualified for the 2010 World Cup if we weren't hosts. This would have meant failure to qualify for two tournaments in a row.
We can't find a replacement for our 30-year old striker Benni McCarthy. We have had a ridiculous number of international coaches in a short period, all with their own philosophy, all with their own style and methods, and this constant chopping and changing is not good for the players who have to keep changing according to instruction.
We have no consistent youth system that identifies a young talent, and follows him through the course of his career, so that an Under-15 player that was selected for SA five years ago, should be involved with the Under-20 by now. What happens is that there are new players being picked for these international youth teams all the time, and they then disappear, so that when it comes to picking a player for the senior national team, he is 25 years old and has no international experience. This can't be right.
So where do we look for leadership? Who is waiting in the wings to take over and make it all right? I fear that we will see no change until after the 2010 World Cup tournament, and by then our Fifa ranking could be in the 100s, while sponsors will all have walked away and the local game will be in its worst state ever. But I live in hope (small but still...) that the game means too much to too many important people and that there will be change for the good, and that things will improve. At worst case, I am available to manage the national Under-20 team starting tomorrow!
It wasn't too long ago that I was standing among the Manchester United fanatics cheering the Portuguese superstar against Chelsea on a cold night in Moscow. He scored the opening goal of the match, but then missed his penalty, proving that he was only human. The United faithful around me forgave him immediately. He was their hero.
A few weeks later and he looks certain to leave for Real Madrid. How quickly things change. I for one wish him well and hope his decision works out for him. I fear though that should the transfer not go through immediately, and drag on, some of the United fans will turn against him.
No one player is bigger than the team - and United fans, who have seen Best, Charlton, Robson, Cantona and Beckham before him - will not forgive him turning against the team and joining a club considered a serious rival in Europe.
But with the money United should get for him, I hope it is spent wisely on a new goalkeeper, a decent winger and another striker. Apart from that, we should be okay!
George is Media24's Mr Soccer.
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