Brendon Shields
Brendon Shields

Saving Bafana

The single biggest threat to our national soccer team is our national hockey team. Allow me to explain:

Our soccer is average because the sport is cultivated outside of any centres of excellence. Rugby for example is cultivated in former Model C schools and private schools with ample resources and a disciplined work ethic. The same goes for cricket. Yes there are a minority of stars born and bred in the townships that are lucky enough to come through the system as a result of their extraordinary talent coupled with quotas in sport, but they are few and far between.

The vast majority of Springbok rugby players and Protea cricketers learn their skill and their discipline in environments equipped to excel. Soccer players are not this fortunate. While the sport is supported and played with passion in just about every rural and township school, these schools simply do not have the resources to deliver excellent sportsmen and women when compared to the rest of the world. The system is geared towards supplying players to Chiefs and Pirates — both of whom will then go on to lose against the Lesotho Defence Force or some obscure village team somewhere in Africa.

Average schools mostly deliver average sportsmen and women. It’s as simple as that. The Bafana feeder system is an average one and as a result the team will have great hairstyles but never win anything that matters.

Now ask yourself this: “If South Africa has these excellent sporting schools feeding their rugby and cricket teams, why the same schools cannot feed our soccer team?” The answer is simple: these schools prioritise hockey over soccer. In my opinion they do so because soccer was foolishly associated with ”black people”, and shunning a proper soccer programme at school ensures you keep the darkies out. The above sentence contains concepts so beautifully fuct-up and wrong in every way — yet how many of you are willing to fight to the death (or at least until the bar closes) to prove me wrong?

I do not want to get into a political debate as to why schools historically acted this way or why some continue to. I can merely post the above paragraph on News24 and the comments section will do the rest. This article however is about Bafana and why our football is so bloody mediocre.

Back to rugby and cricket, both these codes have benefited greatly from an influx of black players into the sports. Black players brought along with them a different culture and made our national teams more diverse not only in colour or race but also in our game strategy. No white player can do what an Aplon and De Jong can do and those Springboks make us a much more dangerous team to defend against. Bafana does not benefit from this cultural diversity.

Take the average Afrikaans kid. In his genes, among his African characteristics you will find German, Dutch, French and English ”blood” — all of them countries that are not too shabby at football. A great many of these kids attend well-resourced schools with an already established culture of excellence, yet even these predominantly Afrikaans schools now field hockey teams? Pardon my ignorance but the last time I checked South African hockey offered no real threat to world superpowers of the sport. We try, but we are not flash, despite our hockey players being cultivated almost exclusively in rich private schools? So why bother?

Why don’t the South African Football Association (Safa), along with government not transform football by incentivising Model C schools and private schools to establish football programmes? It’s not so much about getting more white kids to play the game. Rather it’s a strategy to move football from a purely under-resourced field to a well-resourced one. With their crisp sporting fields and in-house gyms and dieticians and their existing work ethic I am willing to bet good money that in 10 years’ time a St Johns versus Afrikaans High School Pretoria derby will yield excellent quality football players to improve our current stock. And it can happen soon — provided hockey takes a back seat.

Who knows, maybe if your St Stithians and Bishops enter the arena of football Safa will be forced to spend money on academies and other centres of excellence to ensure the township kid does not fall further behind? Or do we wait another 30 years to host a tournament so that our mediocre boys in yellow can again make us proud by ”at least making the quarter-finals”?

What do you think? What solutions do you have to offer? Attack or debate me on twitter @brendonshields or on this blog.

Tags: , ,

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    • fraud

      It’s actually a good plan. My brother-in-law and I have been talking about the exact same thing for the past few years!

    • Ndofaya

      Very well said.

    • Stephen

      Pa-lease. Come on. Are you saying me that the slums of Brazil are populated with quality schools? What about Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast? Just teeming with model C’s.

      In Germany, after Brazil the most successful footballing nation, there are no school sports. Not one school plays inter-school football.

      The football system in SA is broken. Simple as that. Corrupt, inefficient, woeful. There is plenty of talent in SA, just that the system is utterly incapable of processing it.

    • Mzwa

      Agreed. But are SAFA listening?

    • Momma Cyndi

      Why not just get good facilities in ALL schools?
      Most ‘non-C’ schools don’t even have a decent coach, a round ball or a pitch. They have a patch of dirt, a few beer crates, something that resembles a ball and the blessing that the English teacher has enough passion to take time for assembling a team or three.

      Our rowing team brought back a medal partially because one young man got the opportunity to row in a second hand scull when at school. How many other kids out there simply need to have the opportunity in their sport?

      Another problem is nutrition. As the mother of two athletes, I can honestly say that it is scary how much one young man can shovel into his stomach! Any average day, those two eat enough to feed a small village – and they still look like string beans!

    • bernpm

      If we look at the number of African players who made name in Europe and beyond, we can safely say that it is not a DNA (=racist) issue when Bafana under perform.

      Under Clive Barker bafana did well, under Igesund they improved quite a bit in the time he had them under him. Under the coaches in between, they dropped down the list,

      The school plan might be a good idea but to add another sport to the already busy agenda might just be a little too much for the current schools. Competition between schools for the brighter soccer playing students could be disastrous for the students. It could also introduce a “trade” in promising students between schools.
      Top players should nursed in sport clubs. This would bring about a more focused approach by scouts.

      In Holland, most of the sports improvements in all sports, training and competition is organized outside the schools in sport clubs. It does not bother the education program. The kids who want to excel can follow their hearts desire without the schools looking after them.
      This does not necessarily solve the remote and/or ex-centric position of the student. An extra handicap for the remote child and/or his parent. Some make the top, some never do!
      SAFA has proven to be fairly useless. The recent rumors about match fixing and doping in soccer (and many other sports) could make parents decide not to let their child go for the top. Playing around the house is safer.

    • HlezaV

      Its often said that those who become “overnight” success have taken years, of trial and error, to finally succeed. Whatever SAFA has tried till now hasnt yielded fantastic results. Your point is well taken. Time to look at different ways of doing things.

    • Zeph

      Yes, SAFA should get pro active getting soccer into Model C schools. But there is THE problem: SAFA. Their administration policies are the same as our governments’ and we know how that has covered them in glory.
      Big chief syndrome and cadre deployment don’t work on a complex and accountable level.

    • Skumbuzo Mbhele

      An old cliche but a fish rots from the head. I don’t believe there is one person at SAFA who genuinly cares about the state of out football. What they do care about is the cash that football provides. That includes Irvin Khoza and Kaiser Matuang.
      Its all about the cash for them.
      The PSL has millions of rands which it could pump into a long term strategy and develope centers of excellence. What do they do, hoard the cash.

      How is it that SAFA is as good as bankrupt…..after 2010…..all that cash, gone!!!!
      If that is who leads our football, why do we expect anything else.
      Players are paid rock star salaries, by SA standards and produce crap…..many can’t even kick a ball straight.

    • Blogroid

      With regard to your view on hockey. I routinely these days catch Indian hockey league games while channel surfing on satellite. The game has become slick, fast and in its own curious way as absorbing as “the beautiful game” … The crowds too are vocal and numerous and advertising media is noticeable.

      Hockey is undoubtedly a sport of choice in the future in some places and judging by the visuals, the teams seem a most eclectic and “motley” fraternity.

    • http://Bloghome Chris2

      IMHO sport is taken way too seriously by the education system and too many resources are used – almost squandered – in stead of being applied to true academic excellence. Stephen hit the nail on the head in his comment. Sport has the potential to benefit a few stars tremendously, but in the real world of commerce and industry it takes other prowess to bring home the bacon to the wider community, as in the more developed countries. Sport certainly has a place, but preferably in sporting clubs.

    • Momma Cyndi


      I disagree.
      Sport teaches discipline, team work and a healthy lifestyle. Those are invaluable in every aspect of one’s life. Getting kids out of the shabeen and onto a sports field will benefit society more than a kid with a matric and no job to use it in.