There is a moerse disconnect between the South African Football Association (Safa) and the game itself.
Talking to fans and former players since Bafana Bafana failed to qualify for the latest Afcon tournament, it’s plain that we want the national team to do well.
We’ve had some unforgettable moments with our Bafana.
The Afcon title triumph in 1996, Phil Masinga’s goal that sent SA to France 1998, Benni McCarthy’s shibobo goal on Peter Schmeichel to open our World Cup account and Siphiwe Tshabalala’s stunner to announce the first African World Cup.
There have been big wins over France in 2010 and world champions Spain three years later.
All those times, we’ve been proud as South Africans.
But we’ve had very little to celebrate in recent times.
And since the 2-0 loss in Sudan two weeks ago, Safa seem to have washed their hands of Bafana.
Their stunning statement this week, basically saying that Bafana is not the only team they are responsible for, was a cowardly cop out. Sies.
And that’s why legends like Roger de Sa and Aaron Mokoena want to see the whole game torn to the ground.
They have zero faith in Safa president Danny Jordaan and his organisation.
Safa’s Wednesday statement was a masterclass in misdirection that magician David Blaine would have been proud of.
They pointed out that the women’s team is one of the best in Africa, while the men’s U23 side under David Notoane is preparing for the Tokyo Olympics.
That is all true and reasons for praise.
Now forgive me for sounding like a sexist or a hater, these teams aren’t really the flagbearer of our game – Bafana is.
Which brings me to former captain Mokoena.
“Mbazo” has a record number of SA caps – 107 – after making debut as a 18-year-old in 1999.
And he was part of the 2000 Olympic squad that saw the likes of McCarthy, Siyabonga Nomvethe, Delron Buckley, Brian Baloyi, Steve Lekolea, Jabu (Pule) Mahlangu, Matthew Booth and Quinton Fortune go on to become stars of the senior side.
But current Cape Town City assistant coach Mokoena is worried that Safa will fail to carry through with “their work” on the team now.
Back at the turn of the century, Mbazo and his teammates became the last Bafana team to qualify for a World Cup tournament, going to Korea/Japan 2002.
He believes that the continuity from the U23s, who build up international tournament experience, is foundational to a successful Bafana team in the near future.
The “Axe” adds that Safa are undermining Bafana when they don’t give him the resources a head coach needs to build a top-quality structure around him.
In this instance, he is talking about scouting and a skilled, experienced backroom staff.
Recently-fired head coach Molefi Ntseki was predecessor Stuart Baxter’s No.2.
But he wasn’t Baxter’s first choice, while the likes of Fortune, who is doing his Uefa Pro Licence as part of English Championship side Reading’s coaching staff, coming in part time, only to not be given a full-time position.
Former Blackburn and Portsmouth defender Mokoena is also concerned about Safa’s inability to identify European-based talent, only picking up on kids once the media have highlighted them.
Mokoena adds: “We need to have a proper structure.
“At the moment, the coach of Bafana relies on the media to know that there are South Africans playing in Europe. We don’t have a database.”
Attacking midfielders Thakgelo Leshabela [who made his Premier League debut this season] and [England U18’s] Kegs Chauke are both in and around elite football, so why are they not yet in the Bafana setup?
Mokoena’s answer to that question, was: “We need a coach who can stand up to Safa and be strong enough to say “no” for the good of the team when he needs to.”
But most damning is Axe’s belief that whoever comes to coach Bafana now must forget about the World Cup next year.
He says: “We need a five-year plan. We don’t even need the World Cup. What are we going to do at the World Cup? We are going to add numbers. We’re going to embarrass ourselves. Our focus now should be to rebuild Bafana.”
While Mokoena looks at Bafana’s rebuild, De Sa is more concerned about the problems behind the scenes.
An Afcon 1996 winner and part of Carlos Queirz’s coaching staff that qualified Mokoena’s Bafana for Korea/Japan, De Sa says SA football will only recover once Safa learn from the game itself.
De Sa says the organisation should have a Saru-like structure to oversee the development of SA’s gameplan as a whole.
Rassie Erasmus’s directorship of rugby is looking to continue the blueprint set in the
Springbok’s 2019 World Cup success. And with those technical and cultural fundamentals shared with the game, all the way down to grassroots is what De Sa wants to see.
While Safa have trumpeted their work in youth infrastructure, the reality is that the national team is failing.
But their sterkgevriet response to the Afcon setback shows that these manne are more worried about their egos than the game.