Many are pas­sion­ate about soc­cer

Sunday Tribune - - HERALD -

IT’S said you get the lead­ers you de­serve. From a foot­ball per­spec­tive in South Africa, this is true. The SA Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (Safa) has stum­bled from one crisis to the next since it started run­ning foot­ball.

The na­tional teams keep fail­ing to qual­ify for the top tour­na­ments and the over­all struc­ture and run­ning of the game has many faults.

There are many good peo­ple in the as­so­ci­a­tion who are pas­sion­ate about what they do, but the top is rud­der­less and with­out a vi­sion.

Even though Safa ap­pears to be op­er­at­ing in a co­coon, ren­der­ing it in­ca­pable of se­ri­ous in­tro­spec­tion, the sav­ing grace is that the game is alive and well at grass-roots and am­a­teur lev­els.

This is the lifeblood of the game and the main rea­son foot­ball con­tin­ues to sur­vive and grow. At this level, ad­min­is­tra­tors, coaches, par­ents and play­ers are pas­sion­ate about the game – and this is ev­i­dent in all com­mu­ni­ties, cities and town­ships.

The count­less ad­min­is­tra­tors and coaches who give of their time and ef­fort a few times a week for no com­pen­sa­tion, are the true he­roes of the game.

Thou­sands of young play­ers travel vast dis­tances to be able to train and play at a de­cent club. These kids do their best to scrape to­gether money so that they do not miss any ses­sions.

The Safa hi­er­ar­chy has been at log­ger­heads with it­self at a na­tional level for three years, and in this time a par­al­lel struc­ture has been es­tab­lished. An out­sider look­ing on could in­ter­pret this as a com­edy show.

Are there no rules that are be­ing ob­served by ev­ery­one? Have there been court orders handed down as to who can run foot­ball in the coun­try? Why isn’t the Safa con­sti­tu­tion ad­hered to and re­spected?

Peo­ple are get­ting fed up with this un­ten­able sce­nario, and Safa may soon find they have no one left to gov­ern.

Most peo­ple who un­der­stand foot­ball and just want to play the game are vot­ing with their feet.

An ex­am­ple was the re­cent Mar­i­lyn Mews Easter Tour­na­ment or­gan­ised by the Dur­ban Cen­tral Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion at Tills Cres­cent in Dur­ban. It was the 14th edi­tion of this pres­ti­gious event.

Since there were two separate Safa struc­tures in Dur­ban, most of the clubs were split. This has led to the Easter Tour­na­ment be­ing wa­tered down with nei­ther side able to show­case the best foot­ball. But the Dur­ban Cen­tral Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion man­aged to at­tract nu­mer­ous clubs from the “op­po­site side of the fence”, and this year ex­pec­ta­tions were ex­ceeded. Up to 60 teams took part in dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories.

The com­pe­ti­tion in the se­nior sec­tion was in­tense, with am­a­teur and semipro­fes­sional teams go­ing toe-to­toe. This is what peo­ple want to see.

The win­ners who walked off with the R20 000 first prize were Kwa­mashu All Stars, who edged out Green­wood Park Friends 3-0 in the fi­nal.

The tour­na­ment went smoothly, was well-run, and served to unify foot­ball for an en­tire week­end, which was fan­tas­tic to see. Next year’s tour­na­ment is ex­pected to be big­ger and bet­ter.

Safa needs to take a long, hard look at it­self be­cause the pa­tience of the clubs is di­min­ish­ing and soon they will be vot­ing in num­bers by choos­ing foot­ball over pol­i­tics.

South Africans de­serve the best. Let’s get back on track.

Cop­pola is a for­mer pro­fes­sional foot­baller, a coach and ad­min­stra­tor.

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