Mark Gleeson

SAFA shrugs off 11 player farce

2015-06-29 13:50
Mark Gleeson (Gallo Images)

Having just 11 players available on the eve of an international would be considered a farce in any country, and certainly justification for heads to roll, but sadly in South Africa it is shrugged off as just “one of those things”.

Pointedly, last week’s botch up over calls up for the African Nations Championship qualifier against Mauritius was not a first for South Africa.

There was friendly in Malta, way back in 2000 when South Africa were seeking to win the vote of the Maltese member of the FIFA executive committee in the 2006 World Cup bidding campaign, but arrived in La Valletta with 13 players.

Defender Pierre Issa, memorably, made it 14 when he flew onto the Mediterranean island just minutes before kick-off.

It being a friendly match meant the poor planning had no repercussions and there was no sanction for those tardy officials who failed to put a decent squad together.

Similarly last Saturday’s CHAN 2016 qualifier against Mauritius in Soweto was also a meaningless exercise and the lack of planning ahead of the game will likely just be brushed aside.

But for those still wondering why South African football fails to live up to its potential, and why the Bafana brand has gone from a national asset to laughing stock, need look no further than the bungling leadership of the South African Football Association and the quality of personnel that serve the national team.

Any national team should be treated with requisite gravitas and due care but in South Africa few seemingly care about making sure the team always has the best possible opportunity to win ... and, in so doing, deliver joy to an enthusiastic populous who are so keen to be able to get behind a winning team but been so bitterly let down in recent years.

It starts at the top. SAFA’s leadership still have not been able to work out a decent arrangement with the Premier Soccer League clubs over player release on non-FIFA match days. This is particularly important for the Olympic Games qualifiers and the CHAN preliminaries, as well as the annual Cosafa tournament.

It is around 10 years now that this issue has been a thorn in the side of national team, yet there is still no solution. That borders on the criminally negligent, especially if you consider all the meeting allowances the SAFA fat cats greedily help themselves without, patently, actually doing any work.

But while there must be some sympathy for Shakes Mashaba, he is also not as hamstrung as he looks. He too could be talking more to club colleagues and his players more frequently to smooth over future call-ups.

The fact he didn’t know that Tokelo Rantie planned to go off on honeymoon at the same time South Africa were facing the Gambian at the start of the 2017 African Nations Cup qualifiers is also unacceptable. If he bothered to communicate better, he might have been able to persuade Rantie to change his plans and make himself available. In hindsight, Rantie’s absence was one of the reasons Bafana could not beat their lowly-ranked opponents in Durban earlier this month.

Fans, like me, are tired of tardy officials in charge of our favourite team. We demand professionals to run the game so it can live up to its potential.

Mark Gleeson is a world-renowned soccer 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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