Mediocrity not good enough, Bafana

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UNIMPRESSIVE DISPLAY: Dejected South African fans look on as Bafana Bafana lose to Nigeria 3-1 in Cape Town and fail to qualify for the next round of the Chan event. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

THE debate as to the merits or otherwise of Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula’s emotional outburst will fade over time. The facts and truths surrounding our footballing ability will not, unless something is done.

Going back not so far, in 2012, during the Sierra Leone Africa Nations Cup match, our heroes, believed all we had to do to go through to the next round was to play for a draw. This is exactly what they did, but did not go through as they had misread the rules.

The reason for not going further is hardly the point, though embarrassing enough. What was is they actually played for a draw.

Nobody told them (what did the coach say?) that the only game where you may benefit from a draw is in test cricket, which they weren’t playing, where the captain elects this option to ensure there is no loss of a match to give his team a better series result. In soccer you create the opposite, actually giving the opposition a better chance to beat you, a no-brainer!

You  don’t play for a draw, ever! Did the minister perhaps have this in mind when he spoke about losers?

But back to the present. Coach, are you really sure your guys have the correct mental approach for the task at hand? They hadn’t in 2012!

If they are not as physically prepared and disciplined as any opposition, and I can tell you they are not, as their confidence is lacking which affects commitment and implementation – again what the sports minister alluded to.

There are some simple fundamental basics in a game of soccer. You have to ensure more loose balls are won than lost, and players without the ball are not flat-footed but super-alert and creative.

I doubt our players are “making that yard” , have a sense of urgency or physicality, within the bounds of the rules, and often end up as spectators in a one-sided contest.

Does our coach ensure our players watch Bayern Munich on TV or Real Madrid or Chelsea, or do they think they are just as good anyway? Beating world champions Spain in a friendly does not make you their successors.

Did our players, three years ago, watch Germany here at home, thereby seeing what had to be done (nearly) to win the tournament? If they did they would have seen a spectacle I witnessed at the Nelson Mandela Stadium which has never been seen on our fields and probably won’t be again.

I watched a young man by the name of Bastian Schweinsteiger, who stopped running twice in midfield during the full 90 minutes, once at half-time and again at full time to walk off the field. That’s how he was able to pick up loose balls and feed through to the likes of Thomas Muller and Miroslav Klose – remember them, the guys who pumped in Germany’s goals?

They still do it at Bayern, and Bastian is still running!

In other words, Bafana, the more chances you have at goal, the more you score, but just wearing a yellow shirt won’t do that for you. Furthermore, if you continue to maintain the by now familiar attitude of “mediocrity is good enough” in your preparation, it will continue to reflect on the field and you’ll win no tournaments of note.

Perhaps then, these are the questions the good minister should have asked, but when all is said and done, he was not wrong, was he?

Mel Smethurst, Linkside, Port Elizabeth

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