Crisis looms for SA soccer

2011-12-09 14:09

Johannesburg - The failure of the SA junior soccer team to reach the playoffs of the COSAFA U-20 Championships this week has indicated that SA soccer is not yet out of its downward slope, and is heading into crisis.

Last week, the SA U-23 side - albeit with a depleted squad - crashed out of the final Olympic Games qualifying tournament in the group stages.

The future of the senior national squad rests with these two teams as Bafana Bafana gears up for the 2014 Soccer World Cup qualifying rounds.

Bafana themselves, however, have also stumbled this year, failing to progress beyond the group stages in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying competition after team management failed to interpret the rules correctly.

It was the second successive time the national side failed to reach the continental showpiece.

Having given a glimmer of hope after sharply rising in the FIFA rankings since last year's World Cup, Bafana have dropped back to 53rd in the world.

As numbers show, the current Bafana squad is a far cry from the outfit that won the 1996 African title and guided the nation into the World Cup finals for the first time.

Ten years ago, after the side reached their highest ranking of 16th, Bafana began to plummet.

By 2006 they had dropped to 94th - their lowest place in 11 years - after they failed to qualify for the World Cup and were dumped out the Africa Cup of Nations without scoring a goal.

The SA U-20 team at the turn of the century - led by skipper Matthew Booth, Siyabonga Nomvethe and star striker Benni McCarthy - also made significant steps, less than a decade after the country's return from isolation, qualifying for the global junior showpiece.

The U-23 squad reached the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and while they lost out in the group stages, they defeated a classy Brazilian side led by Ronaldinho.

Since then, however, all SA teams across the age group levels have struggled to hold their own in African competitions, despite the nation boasting the richest club league on the continent.

The country's football demise may be rooted in the SA Football Association's (SAFA) lack of commitment to coaching staff and its failure to ensure continuity.

Critically, however, the downfall seemed to have been triggered by the firing of former Bafana coach Clive Barker in December 1997 after the FIFA Confederations Cup in Saudi Arabia.

Inexplicably, the SA juniors have had three coaches since Serame Letsoaka led them to the U-20 World Cup in 2009.

Shakes Mashaba's return to the SA U-23 team last year saw a rise in performance parallel to the success the squad had under him in 1999.

Unable to build the outfit he wanted for the Olympic qualifiers last week, though, meant his earlier hard work had all but gone to waste.

Safa will look to call an Indaba in the new year to get to the root of various concerns, including the thorny issue of poor development structures in the country.

Most of the money earned for hosting the 2010 World Cup - in the region of R600 Million - will be channeled into this structure.

As the association marks its 20th anniversary since readmission, it faces the same teething problems it encountered when the country entered the global football arena in 1992.

Going forward, the proposed Indaba will need to find answers to some burning questions as SAFA maps out a turnaround strategy in an effort to revive the achievements of the national team's golden era.


  • Hertzel - 2011-12-09 14:39

    ...if this was The Premier League [ UK ] ...the Supporters would have ensured that the Coach or Management in this case would have been fired long time ago.....the whole lot at SAFA must be got rid off and get ex Footballers who know the run the show............ it is beyond a joke and before long...the economic reality will also hit home .....

  • Andre - 2011-12-09 14:50

    ..that what you get when you implement quotas... Quotas waste money, causes disention, puts the players in a bad light.. why.. BECAUSE the politicians say so! Until you pick the very best irrespective of skin tone WE WILL be the losers!

  • Thabang - 2011-12-09 15:35

    everyone is talking about development and they seem to ignore the fact that if you want to unearth talent you must go to the grass roots ( townships,rural areas,schools,regional teams etc). All those in power they want to see their hands in the kitty and dont care about grassroots football. We have had enough indabas and we are still in the same position,until there is enough commitment we will continue to dwindle in stature and we will be an example of how not to .

      malinda.cassidy - 2011-12-09 18:55

      Hi Tiblos YES, I agree - talent does not reside only in suburbia. Read my comment to Johannes. It is NOW time for SAFA to use the money made during the WC to DEVELOP our youngsters, not to pat themselves on the back with huge bonusses.

  • J.D. - 2011-12-09 16:21

    The problem of being behind is that you have to work twice as hard as the front runners to catch up. To be abl eto work twice as hard you have have the pride and the will to win. Our Bafana is not in the game to work hard and pride themselves as a team.. They focus more on the more monetary side of things. So this situation of losing will accompany them for quite a couple of hundered years to come.

  • Johannes - 2011-12-09 17:21

    Soccer at schools, soccer at schools, soccer at schools ! We need to create a passion for the sport from an early age. Like rugby. It needs to be a 'compulsory' sport at ALL big South African schools..Not just the township schools or the larny english private schools. The Rugby rivalry between Paarl Gim and Boys High in the Western Cape has bred the likes of Schalk Burger. We can breed the same type of soccer superstars if there is a healthy competitive soccer culture among schools across the country.

      malinda.cassidy - 2011-12-09 18:50

      Hi Johannes Having been through the mill as a soccer mom, from junior soccer through academy, I can only say that soccer is in a terrible state. It seems as if every single person involved in soccer has his/her own agenda, from the 'trainer dad' and the soccer mom to the SAFA executives. Soccer wil only flourish when SOCCER is the first priority for each and every one involved. SA needs a focussed plannned and sustainable training programme that is adhered to by every club and school. Boys and girls must be trained age appropriately but MOST IMPORTANTLY : RESPECT AND A LOVE FOR THE GAME must be instilled by EXAMPLE of all involved. And yes, it should be a school sport.

  • Andrew - 2011-12-09 17:22

    The only time Bafaana were succesful was under a white coach. I wonder why?

  • Dmitri - 2011-12-09 17:26

    Misleading headline...Crisis is not looming. We have been there for a while now...

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