Durban - If South Africa wants to develop in a football sense, it needs to create its own identity rather than trying to emulate systems from Europe and South America.
Yes, Europe and South America have won all the men’s World Cups so far and generally are far more successful than SA when it comes to development. But trying to copy systems from those continents will not work as SA has its own set of nuances which are unique and require their own systems.
Trying to emulate other models in SA actually may harm our football and this could be happening at the moment. In
SA, the reality is that players of 26 and 27 are still considered relatively young and still developing while in Europe and South America, players at this stage of their careers should be at the peak of their powers without much room for improvement.
This is not the fault of SA footballers, as they are victims of a system which has negatively impacted upon their development as players. By watching the South African Premiership and comparing it to the top five leagues across Europe, one notices that players in SA typically still often execute basics of the game such as structured passing, transition play and shooting woefully wrong. Mamelodi Sundowns are the exempt team from these misdoings and hence have been dominating SA football for the best part of the last decade.
The harsh reality is that a team from England’s League One (third tier of English football) would probably perform relatively well in the South African Premiership if they were pitted against top-flight teams in SA.
One thing that SA can do to aid the development of players in the short term is to completely remove age restrictions surrounding the GladAfrica Championship and Diski Challenge.
While the purpose of having the age restrictions in place is an attempt to give younger players an opportunity, it is misguided according to the nuances of SA football. Many players who could continue to refine their games, but who still make basic errors and cannot be fielded in these games are being denied an opportunity to hone their craft.
Inequality also remains a major issue in SA and most professional footballers typically do not come from well-off homes. This is yet another reason why development systems used in Europe will not work in SA. It is only well-off individuals in
SA, who are a small percentage of the population as a whole, who would be able to afford sending their kids to elite football academies from the age of five and six.
Unlike SA, the US realised it would have to develop its own independent men’s football system and even created a league without relegation. Today they are ranked an impressive 15th in the Fifa rankings.