Johannesburg - People from all walks of life always have some sort of a monkey on their backs. This is something that some wordsmiths would refer to as a nemesis.
For journalists, it is always that fearful and dreaded animal called a deadline, and for the SA Football Association (Safa), it would seem to be Bafana Bafana.
No sooner had I presented my report from a media briefing for Sunday publications by Safa president Danny Jordaan and chief financial officer Grony Hluyo at our editorial meeting, than a colleague asked: “What about Bafana Bafana? What is the plan going forward?”
Turned things around
You see, Safa was to hold their annual congress on Saturday, before which Jordaan and Hluyo were quite upbeat about the organisation’s performance in the past financial year.
For Hluyo, the greatest achievement was being able to turn around a R45 million deficit to a R23.1 million (he insisted on inserting the .1) profit.
This is quite great, but as long as Bafana Bafana – the jewel in the Safa crown – continue to misfire, there will always be questions such as my colleague asked on Friday.
Jordaan also had a good story to tell about how his leadership (as a collective) had managed to turn things around since coming into office in 2014.
He painted quite a glowing picture of where they had come from and where they were now – midway through Safa’s Vision 2022, which was introduced when they came into office.
However, it is obvious that, despite junior national teams (male and female) as well as Banyana Banyana – the senior women’s football national team – doing well, the ‘What about Bafana?’ question will always haunt Safa.
So, what does this mean?
It means that the sooner Safa comes up with a lasting solution that will see it achieve one of the pillars of Vision 2022, which is to have Bafana Bafana consistently qualify for international tournaments, do well during them and consistently be ranked in the top five in Africa and top 10 in the world, it will always have this monkey on its back.
Needless to say, Safa has also tended to be its own worst enemy.
The reason that most people don’t know about the good work the organisation is doing, as well as its achievements, is that Safa has a tendency to do these things privately and not shout about it from the rooftops.
There is quite a small section of the South African population that knows that the 2010 World Cup Legacy Trust funds were ring-fenced in such a way that they have been so far used towards the development of players, coaches and administrators.
One of the most recent examples is when the SA Women’s Under-20 national team thrashed Burundi 5-0 in a Women’s Under-20 World Cup qualifier, meaning they are just two matches away from qualifying for the global shindig.
Very little noise and fanfare was made by Safa before and after the match.
Telling the whole world that, since 2015, South African junior national teams from the Under-15s to the Under-23s have consistently qualified for global events does nothing when Bafana fail to make the Africa Cup of Nations and the World Cup.
That the South African senior men’s national team was not part of the 2018 Russia World Cup draw in Moscow on Friday evening is a sore point that will stay with the Mzansi public for quite some time.
The event itself in the middle of next year will be a sad reminder as the public – including Bafana coach Stuart Baxter and his players – sit in front of their television sets to watch the world spectacle.
Senior national team
So, in a nutshell, well done Safa on the financial side and on improving the junior teams’ performances, but until you get Bafana right, your sweat might be in vain.
As mentioned earlier, the fact that Bafana are the jewel in your crown means that you will always be judged by their performances.
I guess even sponsors look at how the senior national team is doing before deciding whether to pump in some money or hold on to their purses.
Bafana’s performance going forward might prove to be a major challenge that plays a critical part in how things turn out at next year’s elective congress.
* Follow me on Twitter @Sbu_Mseleku