Thursday, September 17, 2009

Celebrating mediocrity

I love my sport and I have convinced myself that had it not been because of apartheid I would have been the best sportsman there was ever going to be in South Africa. So because this self delusion never became a reality the closest I can be is a coach potato and an armchair coach. Nothing satisfies my ego than watching Kaizer (or is it Zimbabwe) Chiefs getting beaten every weekend. That is not what I want to talk about anyway....

This weekend Bafana Bafana will be playing Madagascar, I hear. We keep on being bombarded by analysts and journalists about how Bafana has lost six straight games and how it is time for the coach, Joel Santana to be sacked. A few weeks ago during the confederations cup he was celebrated by the self same analysts, journalists and fans for being the best thing that happened to South Africa. Just shows you how fickle and spineless these professional commentators can be. But then they will tell you that they are expressing what ordinary citizens they easily get blown by a gentle breeze!!. I must say I am happy that for once SAFA have learned their lesson and have expressed confidence in the coach.

South Africans are so used to celebrating mediocrity such that they cannot see a good thing in front of their eyes. In my opinion Santana has taken one of the most mediocre teams in Africa and the world and turned them into something that can punch above their weight. Bafana might have lost six straight games but they were neither outclassed nor disgraced in any way, and you have to look at the quality of the opposition they were facing...Spain, Brazil, Italy, Germany...just to name a few. South Africa has mediocre players who often grace benches in unknown teams that they are playing for overseas. Out of all the overseas contingent of SA stars only one player, Steven Pienaar, has consistently made the starting line up at his team, the rest are part players or never get an opportunity to run onto the field. And we call them our international stars!!

Here at home top teams like Mamelodi Sundowns, Zimbabwe (sorry Kaizer) Chiefs and Orlando Pirates get beaten regularly by lowly teams in the African competitions. They get beaten by a bunch of part timers from part time leagues around Africa but we keep deluding ourselves that we are the best. Even most of the African players who ply their trade here never make it into their national teams squad but they are regarded as indespensible by the teams they play for here. Sundowns, Chiefs and Pirates are the richest teams in the league but except for Pirates they are playing pathetic football. The only thing that Pirates can celebrate is consistently coming up second on the log over the past 10 years or so, the other two are so pathetic you never know which team will turn up on match day.

Now if you think that Bafana Bafana can be world beaters looking at the mediocrity of our league and the lack of success of our biggest stars on the international scene then you need your head examined or you don't know anything about football. But wait a minute, Bafana Bafana are well on the road to be world beaters thanks to the one Brazilian, Joel Santana. Having regard to all I have said above I always get impressed by the professionalism and the tactical awareness shown by Bafana Bafana everytime they step onto the field....Yes Santana has taken our mediocre players and is slowly moulding them into world beaters. Sure we will lose games but the dream is there and with every game it is becoming within reach. For the first time Bafana can actually string together about 15 passes without losing the ball and all the time moving forward, Bafana can defend as a unit and most of the goals they conceded have come from set pieces. Here in the local league teams struggle to string together 5 passes and a striker has to miss 10 clear cut chances before he can score goal and this can be seen at national level.

Santana has shown us that there is so much talent in South Africa but what is lacking is the mentality to go with it. With every game of Bafana I can see that self belief, that perseverance and that winning mentality developing. Most of our players fail on the international stage not because of lack of talent but because of lack of mental toughness and the lack of ability to overcome all the obstacle. In the meantime we can throw all the money into the game but if we do not develop that winning mentality, if we don't develop that self belief then we might as well continue the trend of appointing new coaches on the eve of big international tournaments.

But then the 1994 "miracle" made us belief that we can be world beaters without necessarily applying ourselves. We have become so used to celebrating mediocrity but it shall not be done on my name!

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