Why SAFA is suffering.
The six coloured side mirrors have faded, Waka-Waka has fallen of the charts and as some would say Phillip is gone. Because we encounter daily incompetence in the form of the SABC we are less likely to be critical of other organizations in this country. But I must say for a body that brought us the biggest sporting showpiece in the world SAFA is definitely not on the ball. The fact that they are now in negotiation to buy a name that they have been using for two decades is both funny and worrying. The latter having significantly more consequences for the state of the beautiful game in this country.
As the custodian of soccer in South Africa, SAFA has made so many blunders over the last decade that this columnist had to list them just to write this article. Chief of those blunders is that comedy of errors called Bafana Bafana (copyright reserved). Over the last decade we have had more coaches then Zuma has wives. Which is saying a lot. Surprisingly some of those coaches were not dismissed because they were not winning the games. In actual fact I might be subject to correction but Shakes Mashaba was undefeated when he was given his marching orders. The cause? Alleged boardroom scuffles over players’ salaries with Benni McCarthy being the protagonist. Perhaps he wanted to use that money to buy some buffets.
The tragedy of coaching in our national team starts right from the onset – poor selection. Some of the people who have been appointed to the job are at times laughable right off the field. I would love to discuss further the issue of Joel Santana who was given the job having never coached a national team. But I won’t do that, and it’s not because I am jealous of Brazilian football it is simply because I found it patronizing how he could speak English every time we won a game but was tongue tied when we lost. Leaving it to his translator to articulate for him. I wonder if he could say the word loser without stuttering.
Unfortunately the reason we are given people like this is because of maladministration. Suprisingly they are not cooking the books. Although at times I wish they were. It would certainly put my mind at ease about some of the decisions that have been taken by the body at times. The major stumbling block of SAFA as an organization is its leadership. You would be hard pressed to find many successful football associations today that are being led by non-footballers. How can you run soccer if you have never played it at professional level? Some would argue that the people who lead SAFA are there because they have a love for the game. And to them I say, I want to live in Toronto but you don’t hear me singing O Canada from city center to downtown do you?
Many members of SAFA’s top brass are JSE big weights who I am sure do not know the offside rule as neither do many of our players. But none epitomizes this sense of irregular leadership than Molefe Oliphant. Either this guy is a genius or SAFA was just born stupid. Oliphant made the quantum leap from High School principal to SAFA CEO in 1992 much to the surprise of many. He has since been at the helm, but despite many failed initiatives he managed to fly under the radar and avoid any real criticism. Known for his disappearing acts at the height of controversy he would do well to apply for an assistant’s position with David Copperfield.
But all jokes aside the major chink in Molefe’s titanium tight armor during his tenure has been his lack of decisiveness of key issues that are of great significance to the future of football in South Africa. Amongst these issues has been his silence on the state of women’s football in this country. It is both disgusting and embarrassing the kind of treatment that our sisters have to go through in a bid to play the game. The mere fact that there was for a long time no real active female league in this country is an indictment on the validity of “our love” for soccer in this country. Professional female soccer player is a job that is yet to become available in this South Africa. SAFA as on organization and Molefe as its head have persistently and consistently failed to try and put forward any real initiatives towards developing the interest in female football from a grassroots level. The result of that failure can be seen by the complete lack of interest amongst soccer fans in the female version of the sport. Even a soccer addict like me might be guilty of walking past a Banyana Banyana player at the mall and be indifferent to it. Not because I would be rushing to meet Benni at the buffet house but simply because I do not know who they are.
This lack of professionalism is also starting to creep into the men’s game. SAFA in my view in the build-up and even in the aftermath of the world cup has failed to look after its most valuable asset. And no I’m not talking about you flag bearing, Vuzuzela blowing fans out there – although you are important too. But I am referring to the players. There used to be a time when players could be protected from being used. Since the unionization of local football SAFA has not been active enough in protecting players. According to the South African Football Players Union, players in the National First Division should be earning a minimum of R8000. I have a friend who plays for a club in the NFD who earns less. He has sent several letters to SAFA and the union. Decisiveness is pending. The whole state of football in this country is I’m sure the butt of many jokes amongst Sepp Blatter and his peers. As they play Sunday morning golf and try to avoid getting taxes from the profits they made in the world cup. Profits that now I am sure are safely tucked away in some Swiss bank accounts. All this whilst player’s grievances go unheard and the Khoza’s and Oliphant’s remain detached from the realities of the on the field. It’s a tragedy that not even Shakespeare himself could conjure.