South Africa used to be awash with great local born goalkeepers. Yet today that does not seem to be the case. Which begs the question, has the standard of South African goalkeeping dropped? We asked the question to two legends of the goalkeeping world, both of whom have coached the goalkeepers of our national team at one time or another. Legendary Orlando Pirates FC goalkeeper Deshi Bhaktawer feels that not just with goalkeeping, football standards in South Africa on the whole, has dropped a few notches from what it used to be, mentioning administrative problems which filter downwards, as possibly being part of the problem.
“Working with a Spanish club like Atlético Madrid in Spain and Atlético de Kolkata in India really opened my eyes. They have a really comprehensive training programme, which even details when your tea breaks should be taken, when your “Siesta”, which is your nap and rest time, should be taken. A whole complete itinerary, in which not even the minutest of details are left out, nothing is left to chance, punctuality is the order of the day.”
Bhaktawer says that big-name, seasoned players came in, without big egos, but rather a willingness to learn, as if they were new players who were trying to impress. This made the players coachable, and made it easier for the coaches to help maximize each players potential.
Bhaktawer believes that we need to have a desire to learn and implement new things, and that means keeping up with the trends in modern football, including incorporating ideas plus methodologies from other sporting codes, that could help soccer players.
Doctors, nutritionists, and dieticians are among the kind of people who can play important roles in the development of players as well as goalkeepers.
According to one of the best goalkeeper coaches S.A soccer has seen, coach Alejandro “Alex” Heredia, too many foreign keepers are currently dominant in the PSL. He goes on to add that despite this, South Africa still produces great goalkeepers. That they aren’t being given enough game time. Goalkeeping is unlike any other position on the football field, whereas it’s much easier to replace infield players. As opposed to when goalkeepers lose their position in teams, winning their places back is almost like starting all over again, from scratch.
Coach Heredia definitely feels that goalkeeing standards in S.A have dropped when compared to the past, adding that while there are goalkeeper coaches in this country, there aren’t enough of them.
He feels that the goalkeeper coaches we have locally, must continue upgrading their coaching badges, and our clubs and FA need to invest in goalkeeping coaches, and assist in their quest to improve.
The outspoken coach admits to having said something in the media months ago, which was taken to be ‘controversial,’ when he mentioned the Egyptian league, which also experienced a drop in goalkeeping standards once. What the Egyptian soccer authorities did in 2009 as a solution, was to cut out foreign goalkeepers, in order to give their local goalkeepers more game time. It’s worked for them, and the rise of quality Egyptian goalkeepers rose accordingly. The plan was so successful that the restriction was finally dropped for the 2021/22 Egyptian season.
“It’s really unfortunate that from the few great goalkeeper coaches we do have at our disposal in S.A, they aren’t valued much. For example, if you want to coach at U-17 level, you must be prepared to also take a second job, just in order to be able to survive.”