Johannesburg - Without a doubt, Bafana Bafana’s poor showing this year put a huge dent in the near-perfect scorecard of the SA Football Association (Safa) for 2017.
Bafana’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia brings Safa’s annual scorecard down to a modest six.
Whether they agree or not, the Safa leadership is always going to be judged on the strength of the senior national team’s performance.
Bafana are the flagship of the national association and their failure is the nation’s failure.
Bafana had a year to forget when, in addition to not booking a spot in Russia, they didn’t qualify for the CAF African Nations Championship in Morocco and also failed to defend the Cosafa tournament.
The only good thing Bafana did this year was beat Nigeria in the opening round of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
But it was not all doom and gloom.
To add to Banyana Banyana’s Cosafa victory in Zimbabwe in September, the national Under-20 men’s team lifted the title in Zambia last weekend.
The national Under-17 women’s team, Bantwana, qualified for the final round of the 2018 World Cup, where they will meet Morocco in March for a spot in the finals in France.
However, by failing to deal decisively with players’ no-shows at Bafana camps, the Safa administration has not done itself any favours.
Thulani Serero and Tokelo Rantie’s issues with the national team have not yet been addressed.
Serero snubbed a call-up by saying he would go only if he was guaranteed a starting berth. He said his couch in Holland was warmer than the Bafana bench. Rantie asked not to be considered after he was left out of the game against Burkina Faso.
Banyana are still without a coach – more than a year after the departure of Vera Pauw. Desiree Ellis has been the acting coach since September last year and the sooner she knows where she stands, the better for all parties.
The administration has not been forthright with the disciplinary hearings of some staff members. Suffice to say, these were internal matters. But, to their credit, they did post a handsome profit of R23 million in their financial year-end report.
What to look forward to
Next year will be more challenging as Safa’s elective conference is scheduled to take place in March.
After that, the new leadership must ensure the success of all national teams.
Bafana will continue with the qualifying round for the Cameroon tournament later in the year as CAF decided to postpone the March qualifiers to give those countries going to Russia sufficient time to prepare for the World Cup.
Bafana will play Libya, Seychelles and Nigeria.
Bantwana will play back-to-back matches against Morocco and will need to triumph if they want to go to France.
Banyana will take aim at the CAF Africa Women’s Championship in Ghana later in the year. Aside from qualifying for the tournament, they must achieve a top-three finish to ensure qualification for the 2019 Women’s World Cup, which will also be played in France.
The national Under-23 men’s team will want to succeed during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games qualification games.
All this while Bafana players will be at home kicking their heels and twiddling their thumbs while their peers showcase their talent in Russia.