Johannesburg - The SA Football Association finally announced the name of the new Bafana Bafana coach – Scotsman Stuart Baxter a few days ago.
I read recent news reports with sadness and trepidation because all the top contenders for the job were foreign.
The pool consisted of locally based Baxter, Portugal’s Carlos Queiroz, France’s Hervé Renard, Belgium’s Hugo Broos and the UK’s Roy Hodgson.
What saddens me most is the deafening silence from South African sports media. I cannot tell whether the silence is acquiescence or the ultimate acceptance of defeat.
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The debate around foreign versus local coaches has long dominated our sports pages. I began to believe that the argument was settled when Safa, after experimenting with the best foreign coaches in the post-2010 era, finally settled for Shakes Mashaba. Then, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs also reverted to using home-grown coaches in Eric Tinkler and Steve Komphela, respectively.
Pirates’ honeymoon period was short-lived – they are now being coached by Kjell Jonevret, a relatively unknown Swede.
I wonder if there is a relationship between Safa and Pirates in this latest foreign coach saga, what with Irvin Khoza being the lowest common denominator.
I believe Safa and Pirates have short memories because foreign coaches just do not cut it in South Africa. The record speaks for itself.
Yes, Ruud Krol did it with Pirates in 2011 and Baxter followed this with Chiefs in 2014, but no foreign coach has won the Premier Soccer League since.
Nor has a foreign coach won anything of significance with Bafana on the international soccer scene. The last time Bafana mounted the podium was in 1996, when they won the coveted Africa Cup of Nations with local coach Clive Barker.
Even our cantankerous Mashaba did far better than Queiroz, who was – unbelievably – back in contention for the Bafana job.
You would think that, with their credentials, our local coaches would get the nod when it came to leading South Africa’s top teams – including our national side. Sadly, that is not the case.
Granted, some of the foreign coaches have long and impressive CVs and pedigree, but they also don’t come cheap. However, Safa and some of our club bosses don’t seem to mind – they have deep pockets.
The problem is that it only exhibits this spirit of generosity when dealing with foreign coaches. Their high price tag – sadly – does not come with guaranteed good results, and this is where simple logic is defied.
This leads to my assertion that foreign coaches do not make the grade in South Africa.
I have nothing against foreign coaches, nor do I doubt their technical knowledge – they just seem to be in a straitjacket and cannot easily adapt their knowledge and technique locally.
They also exhibit some missionary zeal towards our South African game. It is as if they actually believe that the European game is superior and thus respond to the noble call to save the natives from their own mediocrity.
By doing this, they impose their Eurocentric style of play on our players.
This does not work well with our players as it only stifles their skills and flair, which are an integral part of our local game. Coaches from other lands simply cannot motivate and get the best out of our players.
To cap it all off, these coaches also display a haughty, know-it-all attitude, which becomes an obstacle to their learning and understanding the local game. They hardly consult their local counterparts, who they obviously hold in perpetual contempt. Some even arrive on our shores with a whole technical team of their own to sit on the bench.
I have tried to figure out why club owners and authorities still prefer foreign leaders over our own.
The answer might just have something to do with the African psyche.
Call it Afropessimism if you will, but we seem to have this historically entrenched inferiority complex that will take generations to exorcise.
Meanwhile, our soccer authorities – like drug addicts – will continue to pine for foreign coaches whatever the results.
This makes the often repeated slogan “local is lekker” sound hollow.
It seems that local is no longer lekker.
Maisela is a management consultant and author