Bafana Bafana

Soccer’s new order is hurting Bafana

2017-09-10 06:10

Johannesburg - One of the main achievements of the PSL has been the democratisation of the local football scene.

The flood of money into the 20-year-old PSL and the investment by corporates meant resources could be spread around the football economy more equitably.

Before the PSL era, and in the early days of the Premier League, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs – the darlings of sponsors – were already guaranteed some of the silverware on offer every season.

Their cash reserves enabled them to lay their hands on the best players, who would ensure that, even if they didn’t win the league, a cup or two would come their way.

Today, league and cup honours get passed around a broader pool of heavyweights. This is a fabulous and welcome development that has banished predictability from local football.

The downside of this democratisation has been that the rise of the new powers has been accompanied by the relative decline in the quality of Pirates and Chiefs. The two have not raised their game as their competitors have improved.

The Soweto Derby, which was once an electrifying affair, pitting the best teams against each other, is today mostly a drab affair, despite sold-out stadiums.

Sure, there have been flashes of brilliance here and there –including Pirates’ two trebles and the team’s great African adventure – but the two teams are no longer the rock stars of the local scene.

Specialists of the game may find this point unscientific, but the decline of the giants has had a marked effect on Bafana Bafana. Successful footballing nations need a number of backbone teams to feed the national team with players who understand each other.

Even in this age of globalisation, the dominant domestic teams are the main suppliers to the export market. They shape the national style and give identity to a country’s football brand.

A Spanish team without the presence of Real Madrid and Barcelona stars is hard to imagine. It is inconceivable to think of a German side without a player from Bayern Munich and its closest rivals. Ditto other European giants.

In Brazil’s football factory and in neighbouring Argentina, less than a handful of clubs dominate the leagues and export to foreign climes.

In South Africa, fans of Pirates and Chiefs once competed on the number of their players who got national call-ups. No longer. These days, players from the two teams only just manage to squeak into the national set-up and often end up warming the bench. Even the export chain is bypassing them, with the foreign contingent coming through other teams.

That is how second-tier the Soweto giants have become.

This is against the laws of football. It is hurting the game and is a major reason it will be difficult to restore South Africa to the top 30 Fifa ranking, where we rightfully belong.

Makhanya is City Press editor-in-chief

Read more on:    psl  |  soccer


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