By Thandisizwe Mgudlwa
BAFANA BAFANA have missed out on the participation of CHAN 2018 and the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia to kick start on June 14 – July 15.
It is in that spirit that a proper and broad debate of Vision 2022 must be entertained.
According to the South Africa Football Association (SAFA), “Vision 2022 is a fundamental rebuilding of the structures of SAFA at all levels to create the conditions that will bring about the sustained international success of our national teams.
We have set our sights on a long-term development plan to achieve the goal of always being in the top 3 of the African rankings, and in the top 20 of the World rankings.
10% of the South African population must play football. Therefore, we need to redouble our efforts to: Launch a vibrant schools football programme; and Strengthen women’s football significantly.”
Since the days of Clive Barker, by far the best coach Bafana Bafana has ever had. Things have rather turned sour.
Further, the 1996 AFCON winning team, consisted of very experienced players who had achieved a lot in their careers prior to presenting the national team.
Hence, it was easier for Barker to motivate the team; this was on top of Barker’s tactical and technical prowess.
On the other hand, Barker’s track record as a top coach and the players were automatically and naturally inspired.
And remembering that also in 1996, Orlando Pirates became Africa’s most powerful club after securing the Africa Super Cup, and becoming the first southern African club in 1995 to win the prestigious African Champions Cup, at club level.
Not forgetting other Bafana Bafana achievements, like the silver medal in AFCON 1998, a bronze in 2000 and the African/Asian Cup glory in 1999.
Since 1994 – 1996, Barker won all the Four Nations tournaments we participated in.
After Barker was given the reigns. He quickly turned Bafana Bafana’s fortunes around. Barker establishing the team as an African powerhouse, easily topping their 1996 Nations Cup qualifying group in 1995.
Then South Africa were awarded the rights to host the 1996 tournament after initial hosts Kenya withdraw. Bafana Bafana went on to win the tournament on home soil, beating Tunisia 2-0 in the final.
In 1997 Barker ensured that South Africa would make their debut World Cup appearance for the World Cup 1998 which was hosted and won by France.
Barker was sacked in December 1997. And he missed out on an opportunity to defend his 1996 Nation Cup glory and also missed out on leading the team at its first World Cup in France.
But Barker’s achievements, had confirmed that South Africa had arrived, not only on the African stage, but internationally as well.
Also in 1996, Bafana Bafana, had been honoured by FIFA, with its FIFA Best Mover of the Year Award, signaling that South Africa was the best footballing country in the world in 1996.
During Barker’s reign of Bafana Bafana, South Africa was ranked NO 16 in the World and NO 1 in Africa. Today, they are NO 81 in the World and 18 in Africa.
Most soccer commentary has indicated that after Barker’s exit as the South African senior football men’s national team, the standard of Bafana Bafana went down from the days of Clive Barker at the helm.
Turning back to the current era, a lot has changed.
In fact, South Africa is not longer the most feared football nation in Africa as it once was.
These days, however, soccer commentators and experts regularly and correctly predict that South Africa would be knocked out in the groups stages of a tournament. That is if they manage to qualify for that tournament in the first place.
And they are spot on, since the departure of Barker as Bafana Bafana coach, South Africa has only qualified once, for the 2002 World Cup under, Carlos Queiroz, who by the way was sacked before the start of the 2002 World Cup.
In 2010, South Africa qualified for the World Cup as hosts. And again they were knocked out in the groups stages just like their two previous World Cup appearances.
Unlike many other former Bafana Bafana coaches with achievements to show; and who have had more than one spell with Bafana Bafana, Barker is the only coach not to be given another chance. The question is WHY?
Just days after Bafana Bafana’s early exit in the 1997 Confederations Cup, a caller in the Radio Metro, now METROFM, Sports Show alleged that some of the players were asked by certain SAFA officials to underperformed so that Barker could be discredited and fired.
And a big question that must be on top of the minds of South African soccer ‘gods’, is what is to be done to turn things around and make Bafana Bafana Africa’s most powerful footballing nation again?
The South African Football Association (SAFA), responsible for Bafana Bafana, now needs to find the same magic, and at least innovation shown by the then SAFA boss, the late great Solomon ‘Sticks’ Morewa, when Bafana Bafana became African champions.
A first by a southern African country. Zambia subsequently became the second southern African nation to lift the Nations Cup when they won the AFCON 2012.
Morewa was controversially sacked after suspicious findings during the Government appointed Pickard Commission. Morewa sacking would later prove too costly for Bafana Bafana and South African football at large.
To answer the question of making Bafana Bafana the best again:
# SAFA must understand that it beats the purpose of having a senior national men’s football team, when it boasts about the progress of the junior national teams, when Bafana Bafana are not progressing.
# SAFA has to see that this unbalanced performance scale would ultimately demotivate juniors; and, up and coming players from achieving their level best if they know that Bafana Bafana are not progressing but digressing from the 1996 AFCON glory.
# A more professional approach in appointing coaches, should be that all coaches appointed for the country’s national teams including women national teams, must be coaches that have won a FIFA/CAF recognized tournaments and/or awards.
In this case, Barker should make a return to the national team and be given the right to select his assistance coaches and technical team of his choice.
# The senior coach must be encouraged to appoint a professional technical staff, consisting of at least 15 qualified soccer experts with noteworthy achievements in the game either as player and/or coaches, inline with the international benchmarks.
These experts should also consist of former Bafana Bafana coaches, like Jomo Sono, Trott Moloto, Shakes Mashaba among others.
# Only the best performing players must do duty for the national team at all times, irrespective of how old a player maybe.
In other words, Bafana Bafana must never be a platform for developing players. Bafana Bafana must always be the ultimate benchmark for any South African footballer to aspire to play for.
Only the best performing players who are capable of producing a winning result must be allowed to play.
# Most importantly though, is that SAFA must in the process of re-igniting the most loved sport in South Africa, broaden and widely sell the programme, VISION 2022, to all corners of the country.
This would have to be backed by a mass national participation football educational and training programme at all levels of the game and complemented by multiple football tournaments nationally to give all players enough opportunity to develop and reach their full potential.
This must be a process that will get all football stakeholders and lovers, be it spectators, administrators, players, coaches, sponsors etc, to come back into the game on a fulltime basis.
And in the process take the beautiful game to the highest of levels.
This must be done for the sake of football and the nation.