The Cruel Truth About Bafana

South Africa Team picture during the International Friendly match between South Africa and Uganda at Orlando Stadium

The cruel truth about Bafana Bafana is highlighted by the difference in talent from the victorious 1996 Afcon winning squad, and the 2000 Sidney Olympic squad of 2000, versus the virtual lack of international talent in the current Bafana squad.

Bafana Bafana was once the pride and joy of South Africa, and in particular South African football. The 1996 squad led by Clive Barker, took our national team to unprecedented heights, and united the entire country. Even ouma’s from the Free State knew and loved the team that played to full houses throughout the country.

Gone are the days when we could play Germany, Argentina, Holland, England and Brazil and hold our own. Today we are cannon fodder for the big teams in the international arena, just ask France.

The truth is simple, we just do not produce the same level of players we used to.

The question is why not?

A look at the progress of the 1996 squad tells us a lot. The late Sizwe Motaung played regularly in La Liga. Phil Masinga, Lucas Radebe, Mark Fish, Shaun Bartlett and Eric Tinkler all played in the EPL. David Nyathi played in Serie A. Fish, Masinga and Tinkler also had stints in Serie A. That’s six players in that team who played at the highest level possible.

Andre Arendse and Mark Williams played second tier in England, still a very high standard. Shoes Moshoeu and Helman Mkhalele played at the top level in Turkey and August Makalakalane graced the top league in Switzerland. Doc Khumalo spent time in the Argentinian top tier.

Just four years later, South Africa qualified for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Of that squad, Benni McCarthy, Quinton Fortune and Aaron Mokoena all played in the EPL. Rowan Fernandez and Delroy Buckley played in the Bundelsliga. Siyabonga Nomvethe played in Serie A. While Emille Barron, Mathew Booth, Toni Nhleko, Stanton Fredericks and Jabu Pule, all had time in excellent second tier leagues in Europe.

Today however, most soccer fans struggle to name the Bafana starting line-up, and will not find a single player playing in the top overseas leagues.

What caused this downward trajectory? What makes it even more perplexing, is that the downward trend has happened while much more money and professionalism has taken place in the PSL. Clubs are way better run than before, the professionalism has improved on and off the field, sport science which was virtually non-existent before, is well used. The players’ salaries are incomparable from yesteryear. In other words, all the indicators are there that we should have progressed in terms of growing talent.

Yet the crowds are not nearly as good as before, we do not produce the talent anymore, and our national team is at an all-time low.

Are the players too comfortable and not hungry enough? Is there no more honour in playing for Bafana anymore because caps are dished out in meaningless tournaments like confetti?

Or is the fear of losing that club owners and coaches feel, that has led to PSL soccer being one of the least attack minded in the world?

Pupils are only as good as the disciple and creativity that teachers and parents provide.

Are PSL misguided in simply paying big wages and hoping that will do the trick? If that is so, then you have the answer.

I wonder how many club owners and coaches sing off the same hymn sheet?