Goal-scor­ing ‘worst’ Mi­cho’s seen in over 20 years

Pretoria News Weekend - - SPORT - NJAB­ULO NGIDI

HAVE you heard the one about the South African striker in a brothel? No? He couldn’t score there, ei­ther. Par­don my crude joke. I find a good dose of hu­mour to be the best medicine for mis­ery, and right now I am mis­er­able af­ter Bafana Bafana once again failed to qual­ify for the World Cup. If I wasn’t an athe­ist, I would have shouted amen when Or­lando Pi­rates’ coach Mi­lutin ‘Mi­cho’ Sre­do­je­vic de­scribed the fin­ish­ing in the coun­try as the worst he has seen in a coach­ing ca­reer that has taken him all over the globe in just over two decades.

“I have been to 138 coun­tries all over the world, be­lieve me, I have never seen this amount of misses in my life,” a can­did Sre­do­je­vic said af­ter the Buc­ca­neers’ goal­less draw with Golden Ar­rows. He then went on a charm of­fen­sive to say that he means no dis­re­spect with his state­ment as he loves the coun­try. But the mes­sage was al­ready out.

Sre­do­je­vic’s harsh words are what our strik­ers need if they are to im­prove. There are a num­ber of in­ci­dents in the past that prove Sre­do­je­vic is right. The re­cip­i­ent of the 2006/07 Les­ley Many­athela Golden Boot should have made any striker worth their salt ashamed and dou­bled their ef­forts the fol­low­ing sea­son. Zam­bian for­ward Chris Ka­tongo scored 15 goals in the first half of that sea­son in the colours of Jomo Cos­mos. He left in Jan­uary to join Dan­ish side Brondby be­fore re­turn­ing to the coun­try to col­lect the award as no for­ward had sur­passed him. The fol­low­ing sea­son, driven to make up for that em­bar­rass­ing sit­u­a­tion, the top goalscorer fin­ished with 14 goals, one less than Ka­tongo. It was another Zam­bian in James Chamanga.

The sit­u­a­tion was more de­press­ing in the 2013/14 sea­son. Bernard Parker re­ceived the award af­ter scor­ing a pal­try 10 goals. Parker’s 10th goal came in Fe­bru­ary. He didn’t find the back of the net in the Absa Premier­ship for three months, hav­ing fea­tured in nine games dur­ing that time. De­spite that dry spell, no one could sur­pass him. Zim­bab­wean for­ward Tendai Ndoro, who joined Mpumalanga Black Aces in Jan­uary, al­most caught up with Parker hav­ing played half a sea­son.

Goal scor­ing in the coun­try is at cri­sis level. A se­ri­ous in­ter­ven­tion is needed to solve this prob­lem that af­fects ev­ery do­mes­tic team and is am­pli­fied at Bafana Bafana level. Luck­ily for clubs, they can look be­yond our borders for pro­lific strik­ers. Al­most ev­ery team in the Premier Divi­sion re­lies on a for­eign striker. Ev­ery top team, with a strong bud­get, is led by a for­eign striker or was led by one in the last cam­paign.

The prob­lem is more men­tal than tal­ent. A lot of our strik­ers drop their heads af­ter a miss and af­ter one too many their per­for­mance drops, stran­gled by the fear of not want­ing to make mis­takes. One of the things I like about Katlego Mashego is his at­ti­tude. The Chippa United striker is a lively char­ac­ter who al­ways has a smile on his face. He doesn’t spend too much time wor­ry­ing about misses which is why he is so com­posed un­der pres­sure know­ing that he will make up for that miss. He should be scor­ing more than he cur­rently does with his tal­ent though.

This prob­lem will not be solved by coaches at the Premier Divi­sion be­cause the play­ers they get should be the fin­ished prod­uct or close to be­ing one. It’s up to coaches in de­vel­op­ment struc­tures to teach play­ers this skill from an early age. If that doesn’t hap­pen we are doomed to keep com­plain­ing about our mis­fir­ing strik­ers.

The mind-set also needs to change. I re­mem­ber grow­ing up, play­ing foot­ball in the road or any patch we could find – scor­ing wasn’t glam­orous, be­ing skil­ful was. The prob­lem was that goals tended to end the fun as it brought the matches to an end with goals and not time de­cid­ing the length of the matches. Play­ers who did noth­ing but score goals were called names like icutha which means one who pa­tiently waits for his prey be­fore pounc­ing. The act might be a good one in foot­ball but ekasi it was viewed as anti-foot­ball. That’s why even now fans cheer loudly for a mo­ment of bril­liance and pay no at­ten­tion to what fol­lows, which in some cases in­cludes the trick­ster los­ing the ball.

Su­perS­port United briefly tried hav­ing a striker’s coach by ap­point­ing Mark Wil­liams. But that ex­pe­ri­ence was quickly short-lived be­fore one could judge its im­pact. The sit­u­a­tion is so dire that we have to try any­thing that can bring us the re­sults be­cause things are bad.

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