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Local bullies and rich players

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This is where we have to match ourselves against the best to make a lasting impression in the big CAF and Fifa matches.

I was about to take a huge yawn at the national football team’s performance in the 2020 Afcon qualifiers during the week but then they put matters right on Sunday against Sudan and I had to stifle that yawn and take a celebratory tipple instead.

Our national football team blows hot and cold like that. I do not know about you but I have no clue how one team is capable of such vastly varying degrees of performances within the space of a week.

Bafana Bafana took a terrible beating against the Black Stars at the Cape Coast stadium in central Ghana. Three days later the South Africans turned the tables against Sudan here at home and in that way made certain they get to remain relevant in the competition and in contention for the anticipated knockout stage.

The worrying piece for me is that Ghana are by all accounts a quality team whereas Sudan, despite being, similar to Mzansi, a founder-member of the continental football organ, are a relatively toothless side at the best of times. The worry is that despite our much-touted pedigree we seem to only be good as Cosafa champions.

You know what that means. We are the local bullies to the likes of Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini (Swaziland), Comoros, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Seychelles and to a lesser extent Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. This goes both for our male and female national teams.

Now, almost all of the above-mentioned national teams aren’t the type of opposition that gives you butterflies at the mere mention of their names to the extent that Ghana is. Ghana has several big names who play for the best and richest teams and leagues in the Fifa family. This is where we have to match ourselves against the best to make a lasting impression in the big CAF and Fifa matches.

Given that we chop and change national coaches at a maddeningly frequent pace, and are looked at with the backdrop of the last result against Ghana I sincerely think besides “purchasing” prestigious international tournaments, we do not deserve to be on the same stage as the Black Stars.

We won’t fit that bill until we get our home situation right. That home situation involves a national coach’s handbook, the national schools league, the training academies and a host of relevant football wherewithal that we currently do not have.

Let’s take a short left to a related development at our national football league level. The Premier Soccer League (PSL) has just this past week announced that they have made lots of money from all sorts of football activities. Good for them.

Like a good housekeeper, PSL chairman Irvin Khoza said they are concerned that not all retiring players get to live well after saying goodbye to the hero-worshipping crowds and the dream pitches. This is a worrying thing that they want to put a stop to. I agree wholeheartedly.

The tabloids frequently scare us with horrible stories of former sports stars who resort to running unlicensed shebeens, being bodyguards to unsavoury characters in the crime world. Or worst of all, murdering others for a mere R100 debt and dying penniless.

Khoza says that the PSL would encourage players to at least retire with something like R2m in their bank accounts. That is admirable indeed. But then again, handling that type of money presupposes that you have the relevant education and personal temperament to go with it.

Stories abound here and elsewhere of sportsmen (yes, they are mostly males) who do not go to bed for days on end because they are too busy having a good time courtesy of the moolah they pocketed from their sports contracts. Khotsong!