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South Africa's only solution


In 1996, the world was graced with the emergence of a colourful and flair-filled footballing nation, Nelson Mandela's South Africa.

They won the 1996 Africa Cup Of Nations (Afcon) and went on to reach the finals in Burkina Faso in 1998, as they tried to defend their title.

For obvious reasons they were loved by most African nations. Quality players like Mark Fish,Thomas Radebe, Benni Mccarthy, Arinze and Doc Kumalo were discovered and they were impressive.

Though an early exit awaited them at the 1998 World Cup in France, they came out with positives and Nigeria stopped them getting to the finals at Afcon 2000.

Unfortunately, ever since, it's been a slow but steady regression for "Bafana Bafana". This latest exit from the race to the 2014 World Cup by the impressive new boys on the block, Ethiopia, is disheartening to the fans.

What is wrong with South African football and are there possible solutions?

Lack of world class players

Their demise has incidentally coincided with the retirement of the above-named stars and the failure to produce "real" replacements. The above-named all went on to make names for themselves in top European leagues and the experience they acquired made the difference at the national team level each time they came back home to don the national colours.

The objective now has to be producing or improving existing players to get to the world class level the above players held then.

Playing philosophy

Technically beautiful moves are good to watch but are useful in soccer only if it gets you winning results. It's all about winning now and not about how pretty you play.

The Ethiopians beat SA and qualified, not because they played prettier, but because they played objectively, with spirit and sometimes ugly. They had one objective in mind; winning at all costs. A lot could be learned from this.

Improvement of youth education programmes

South Africa is a nation blessed with so much that it has to exploit it to the maximum for its youths.

It is paramount that the nation embarks on a theoretical and practical education on what modern winning football is all about. Otherwise, catching up with the rest of the world will be a distant prospect.

The German example

The Germans, whom the world is showering with so much praise, found themselves in a similar situation in 1998.

They went back to the drawing board to decide how to improve their soccer and renew their winning ways .They realised that it no longer sufficed to just physically outrun the opponents but that they had to improve on their tactical and technical ability.

Youth programmes aimed at practically bringing this idea to the upcoming stars were put into place. There were also TV educational programmes, a better use of infrastructure and improvement of the coaching model to reflect the new model.

What was the end result? There were better results and playing standards at the national team level. The league improved so much it has about the highest number of stadium visitors each week in the world.

Their clubs dominated the prestigious European Champions League in recent years,winning one and reaching four finals in the last five years.

A similar model, tailored to fit the South African environment, is required urgently and South Africa will be back to winning ways.

Let’s wish Madiba's boys (Nelson Mandela) a speedy recovery to the top of African football and a presence in major tournaments that they don't host.


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