Sunday Times

Don’t blame the coach, blame the entire system

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Once again, Bafana Bafana failed to qualify for an important tournament. The blame game, predictabl­y, is on again. Blame the coach, our favourite scapegoat: fire him and all will be well! It won’t. Molefi Ntseki wasn’t qualified for this job to begin with, so what about those who hired him? All the executives at the South African Football Associatio­n who reasoned that Ntseki would be good for the national team should surely follow him out the door after the embarrassm­ent of Sudan. Danny Jordaan & Co have outlived their usefulness: they have run out of ideas.

South Africans have high expectatio­ns of Bafana. We expect them to compete with the best in Africa, if not the best in the world. We are hungover from 1996, when we won the Africa Cup of Nations. That was 25 years ago, and since then our football has been in gradual decline. The question is: are we really that good at football, or have we deceived ourselves? If we are good for it, have we invested in developing talent from a young age? We hosted the Fifa World Cup in 2010 — and that was supposed to be the springboar­d to success. The world governing body pumped millions into developmen­t as a legacy of the World Cup. Can Safa show us what the money has brought? At some point we were promised an academy the size of Clairefont­aine — the French football academy that has produced a string of gifted players, among them Thierry Henry, Nicholas Anelka, Blaise Matuidi and Kylian Mbappé. The French national team left SA in disgrace in 2010, having knocked us out in the first round. They went back home, focused on developmen­t and won the World Cup eight years later in Russia — with a cohort of exciting youngsters.

Senegal, the top-ranked African team, and a country with an economy vastly outranked by SA’s, boasts exciting developmen­t academies, including Generation Foot, which produced one of Africa’s most expensive players, Sadio Mane. The academies identify, groom and send out young talent to leagues all over Europe. Our most talented player, Percy Tau, is 26 and battling to make first team at Brighton Hove Albion.

Khanya Leshabela, a 21-year-old born in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria, has made the first team at Leicester City. Has Safa even heard of him?

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