Johannesburg - The current state of goal scoring in the ABSA Premiership needs to be addressed urgently, or South African football may well go down the drain.
But this should not come as a surprise, because the signs have been there for a while. Statistics show that no player has scored more than 14 goals per season in the past five. Siyabonga Nomvethe is the last top scorer to have netted 20 goals and that was in the 2011/12 season.
This is a serious indictment on the league, which is touted as the best on the continent.
Just last week, we were reminded of how bad the situation is after only two wins were registered in 14 matches. Six of these ended in goalless draws.
Now former players are pleading for a chance to try to solve the goal drought and they have blasted coaches and players for the crisis the game is in.
“Give us a chance, because we might bring the solution,” former Kaizer Chiefs striker Pollen Ndlanya pleaded.
“We should not be seen as a threat to coaches, because this is what some of them think of us, but as part of the solution".
No longer hungry enough
Ndlanya and former Orlando Pirates marksman Andries “Local is Lekker” Sebola have put the blame squarely on the coaches’ shoulders and say they are stifling the talent of current players.
However, players were also berated and were criticised for not being ambitious enough.
Pirates development coach Augusto Palacios said players lacked ambition and did not make the effort to improve their game.
He said players were no longer hungry enough, which was detrimental to South African football.
“It is up to the players to go the extra mile to improve where they are lacking in skills, but I don’t see that in our players. They want to finish training early and go socialising instead of doing extra work on their own,” Palacios said.
Ndlanya said coaches should take the blame for what was happening in the Absa Premiership.
“How long are we going to moan about the same thing? We have been having the same conversation for a long time, but nothing changes. I analyse most of the games and, as a former striker, my focus is on strikers and what I see is appalling".
He said strikers’ movements off the ball and their positioning were way off the mark.
“We shouldn’t be surprised when they don’t score goals. Moreover, they lack confidence and composure in front of goals. They don’t believe in themselves, but you can’t blame them because it starts at training".
He believes some solutions lie with former players.
Never kicked a ball
“This thing can’t be solved overnight. It starts with training and it is all about coaching. But you need people who have been there and done that. I don’t know if they ever practice off the ball movements and shooting. During our days, we used to stay behind after training and try to perfect this with the likes of Jeff Butler and Paul Dolezar,” he said, referring to the two former coaches.
He said most coaches saw former players as a threat, so the veterans were not given a chance to help.
“We are not after anyone’s job, but I believe we can help somewhere. It is high time they put people with expertise in this department and forget about their egos. Our football is full of people who have never kicked a ball and this is what is destroying the game.
“Bring us inside and see what’s going to happen. Our football is going down the drain and we are not allowed to do anything. We can’t just fold our arms and do nothing. We should be given opportunities".
Sebola believes the system that most coaches use is not good for strikers.
“There is obviously going to be a lack of goals if you go with one striker and pack your midfield. To me, it says coaches think of defending first before attacking, which is counter-productive".
Sebola echoed Ndlanya’s sentiments that former players needed to be drafted in to help arrest the situation.
“Today’s players are not being taught the right things because they are trained by people who have never kicked a ball. This is the downfall of our football and that’s one of the reasons people no longer go to stadiums'.
He said strikers were often found wanting in front of goals because of their positioning.
“It’s all about those false runs inside the box, off the ball running and anticipation. But you can’t do all these when you lack composure. These boys don’t have guidance,” Ndlanya said.
Former Mamelodi Sundowns striker Daniel “Mambush” Mudau was less critical of coaches and said they were merely making do with what they had.
A lack of natural strikers such as Shaun Bartlett, Mark Williams, Shane McGregor, Fani Madida and Raphael Chukwu meant that coaches were having to turn players into marksmen.
“This is a big challenge for the country because we can’t unearth pure strikers, hence we are forced to go outside or convert some players. We need to develop strikers from an early age and teach them the basics, not when they are grown-ups. At the end of the day, we are going to blame coaches, but the problem is beyond them,” Mudau said.
He said most players were not mentally strong and this affected their game: "I’ve seen many players drop their heads after missing chances. The next time, the player will rather pass the ball than try to score because he doesn’t want to take the responsibility. I used to stay behind after training, trying to perfect my scoring, which helped a lot. I don’t see that happening these days".