Our number one passion is soccer. So what is wrong with South Africa’s number one passion?
We speak passionately about soccer at schools; at the bus/taxi depots; at the sport’s bar; at religious gatherings and every other conceivable place and yet since South African has become a democratic country we are very, very far from this passion and rate very poorly in the soccer rankings in both Africa and in the world rankings. So what are the reasons for our poor showing?
In the last three years, Bafana Bafana, Banyana Banyana and every other selected South African team which included the Under 23 and Under 17 bombed out in world competitions in the first round. Bafana Bafana recently did us all a disservice when they actually celebrated a draw with Sierra Leone with the anticipation that they had qualified for the 2013 African Nations Cup. The coach Pitso Mosimane actually had the gall and arrogance to tell the South African public that he had instructed his players to play for a draw. Which coach in his right sense would tell his team to play for a draw when soccer is about winning games? Some newspapers were so ironical in their reports that they said that Bafana Bafana were far better in the skills of dancing and celebrating than showing off their football skills.
Our Under 23 South African side and Banyana Banyana will shortly be competing in the World Olympic Games. They would definitely have all South Africans waving the flag and supporting them passionately. However, on a more realistic note, they would be going into these tournaments with the same failed formula as the national teams of the past three years which makes success in these games a distant second.
SO WHAT IS RIGHT AND WRONG ABOUT OUR FOOTBALL?
On a very positive note, South African players are very highly skilled hence we find a number of these gifted players plying their trade overseas with world class players. There has also been a vast improvement in the fitness of local players. Another key factor of improvement has been the inter-change of passes which has seen much more fluidity especially in the mid-field area which is often regarded as the engine room. It is also noteworthy that players do not hang onto the ball with the idea of showing off although there are still a few players who play to the gallery rather than for their teams.
On the negative side, however, there are a number of factors which coaches are disregarding and not making mental or written notes because players are making the same mistakes week in and week out.
Majority of the passes in the matches are “hospital passes”; “suicidal passes” or “accidental passes” resulting in passes moving to and from the opposition in quick succession. Very rarely will spectators see three or four well executed passes being strung together by one side.
Players are clearly ignorant of the purpose of the arc at the 18 yard box and because of their ignorance of this very important area; no set pieces are really executed.
Deep squares from the bye-line are non existent and when they do occur, they are done so accidentally. Players from the flanks are continuously placing their crosses in “busy traffic” area instead of playing the ball diagonally across the goal mouth where there is hardly any “traffic”. These passes are seen regularly in overseas football with a number of goals being resulted.
While players do not hang onto the ball, they still take a while before they release the ball to fellow players. The player without the ball is far more important than the player with the ball because he is the one creating space. Every time a player gets the ball, he should have a choice of at least three players to pass the ball.
The ball should only be played into the air if a player is under pressure from the opposition. Goalkeepers also play the ball into the air and the same applies to players taking corners or free kicks. Other than the above the ball must be played on the “carpet”. When a player kicks the ball into the sky, he hopes and prays that the ball reaches his team-mate. There is a 50/50 chance that the ball would reach his team-mate and a mine magnate like Mr. Motesepe would definitely not like to see his R100 being halved because of the stupidity of someone else.
There are some brilliant local players who possess outstanding skills to play in top flight overseas football but are being ignored because of their selfishness. One example of such a talented player is Teko Modise who can shoot powerfully and with great accuracy. He is swift off his feet and has a knack of being at the right place at the right time. This was clearly evident in his earlier days at Orlando Pirates. The problem with this player is that Teko plays for Teko and not for the jersey on his back and it is clear no one in the management is advising him of what a great player he can be.
He thereafter unleashed a tremendous left foot into the far end of the goalmouth and out of the reach of the Mexican keeper to record one of the best goals of the tournament.
In the match between Bafana Bafana and Sierra Leone. You would notice that “Shabba” was again on his favourite left flank but this time on the edge of the arc and with ample time to do exactly what he did in the World Cup against Mexico. Alas and to the disappointment of all our fans, “Shabba” does not get his upper body over the ball and does not kick the ball to the far end of the goalmouth as he so brilliantly had done against Mexico. Instead, he kicks the ball to the near post and over the goalmouth. Maybe, this would explain why overseas coaches are ignoring this very talented player.
Consider the crowds at local matches and you would notice that with the exception of Kaizer Chiefs and to a lesser extent, Orlando Pirates and Celtic you would not find more than 3 000 to 5 000 spectators in huge stadiums when other teams meet each other and what is the reason for the dismal turnout -- poor quality football week in and week out.
Consider all the facts above and let me know what are your feelings about our number one passion – football.