After successfully hosting a World Cup on their home soil, South African football was again in the midst of global sporting headlines. Though, this time it was for all the wrong reasons. Their recent antics with the numbers and an equally bizarre interpretation of rules have ended all the hopes of qualifying for the African Cup of Nations finals in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea next year.
Pitso Mosimane, the poor old South African manager was more than convinced that his side needed only a draw against Sierra Leone to qualify; and they played out a scrappy 0-0 draw with one of the most stringent defensive units in the qualifying campaigns, having conceded only three goals in the whole campaign. His players and coaching staff even celebrated at the end of the game, in an apparent knowledge that they had done what was required. The governing body of African football (CAF) also acknowledged the result on their website, except the fact, they hadn’t qualified.
In this series of anticlimactic events, I’ve tend to be more sympathetic towards the whole Bafana Bafana contingent, who would have loved to witness another gutsy performance from their side on a bigger stage. Also, the recent week has exposed a sense of indecisiveness and hidden administrative faults which certainly contradict the professional demeanor of SAFA, which it says it aspires to be, has just fuelled several issues which can be related to the downfall of the most celebrated sport in the country.
Instead of accepting responsibility, South Africa tried to blame the CAF rules, which was again a reactive action of folly. The rules are no doubt a bit complicated, still they have been manifested pretty clearly and the article no. 14.1 clearly suggests their preference for head to head record ahead of the comparative goal difference. Hence, protesting or appealing for the side’s elimination was another act of stupidity from SAFA.
The ground reality speaks for itself, when you look at their selfish agendas, futile dynamism talks, and how little they have actually bothered about the growth of the game in their country. The team’s mentality has seen a drastic change, considering they were more than elated with a draw against Sierra. South Africa’s shift from being one of the continent’s heavyweights to one which is fighting for a place in the African Cup of Nations suggests their inability to use their resources and potential completely.
The accountability issues have not been limited to South Africa alone, but many big teams such as Egypt, Cameroon, Nigeria and Algeria have all failed to qualify for next year’s tournament, thus meaning they all need some time for introspection. Some of the football associations of these teams have preferred to play the blame game with their team managers, which is so much a part of modern game, while some of them have challenged the team’s mental and physical fitness which is more disturbing, especially for the fans.
But then, what are excuses meant for? And it would take a lot of time before the respective organizations would finally understand the importance of a smooth workflow, as it certainly is and will always be a significant factor in every team’s performance.
Maybe, they should learn from their counterparts such as Libya, and their coach, Marcos Paqueta, who attributed the team’s success to the administration stability even during the political turmoil in the country, when rebel forces intent on ousting Muammar Gaddafi had seriously affected the country’s sporting activities. Even in Niger, which is one of the most under-developed countries in the world, President Issoufou received the triumphant team at the airport who had qualified for the first time for the biggest competition in their continent. The optimistic President said,
“We have been fighting for 51 years and now we have made it. This is a chance for the people of Niger to learn a lesson; that in all areas, we can be amongst the best”
For Niger, it was never about complacency, unlike their competitors, but there was more than a sense of inspiration which drove them on to attain significant success. Some years back, even the likes of South Africa possessed this virtue, but then it doesn’t last forever, and there are times when you tend to lose the plot, which is the best way to define their administrational conundrum. Much has been said and written about South Africa’s miscalculations and not-reading-the-rule book disaster, but then it also gives a chance to restructure the national side, in order to avoid such disasters in the future.
It is true that the Bafana Bafana sorely missed the likes of Steven Pienaar in their side, but then for a country with one of the best economies in the continent and good footballing talent, it shouldn’t be too difficult to develop a promising side for the future. Investments for the much needed youth setup should now be very high in their priority list with the 2014 World Cup and the next AFCON next on the agenda. Many predicted an upsurge of Bafana Bafana after an impressive show at the World Cup however, the experienced lot have largely failed to live up to the hype and probably it’s the right time to bring in some fresh legs into the side. A major shake- up, on and off the field is imminent as it can only breed some competition in their setup, so significant to their degrading setup.
Also, finalizing on the agreements related to their domestic league now holds the key, as their young talents need some games before they compete for the contention of those limited spots available in the London Olympics. To cut things short, it’s not all over after that mini-disaster, probably it could be the best time to wake up and move on.