Where are the Southern African football greats?
CONGRATULATIONS to the Zambia Under 20 National Team for representing their country, Africa and especially, Southern Africa very well in the FIFA Under 20 World Cup.
f course, some of us being eternal optimists, could see that it was entirely possible
for the Young Chipolopolo to bring home the trophy.
However, it was not to be. Credit needs to go to coach, Beston Cham- beshi for guiding the youngsters to the verge of glory.
They had almost arrived in the “Promised Land” but such is foot- ball, you make one mistake and you get punished, and severely for that matter.
Congratulations are also in order to my namesake, Mr Andrew Kamanga, the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) President and his team for creating an environment conducive to the quest for excellence in the game.
Hopefully, the youngsters will be kept together and not disbanded. They could be just what the doctor ordered for the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying rounds.
They need time and support and they will achieve great things for Zambia in the near future.
The Zambian success brings us to the question, where to from here? This is the question that Southern Africa is continuously failing to answer.
How do you facilitate graduation of talented youngsters to the next level of professionalism? As the old adage goes, “For one to be declared a big fish, you have got to swim with the sharks”.
This saying also applies to the world of sport and in this case, foot- ball. For you to be deemed great, you need to play with the best, not just on the African continent but at w
is no doubt that the lucrative football leagues are the ultimate measure of success for any aspiring footballer.
Whilst other parts of Africa remain fairly represented in the big leagues, Southern Africa has fallen way behind with only a handful of players competing with the best in the world.
With regard to the English Pre- mier League, the best marketed in Europe, Southern Africa can only boast of Steven Pienaar who got rel- egated with Sunderland.
This means, effectively, that there are no Southern African players in any of the big five leagues in Europe which are Spain, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom and France.
Of course, we cannot say by any stretch of the imagination, that those plying their trade in Belgium,
Netherlands, Portugal and other lower ranked leagues are wasting their time.
However, given the right support, it is entirely possible to see a good number of Southern African in the Big 5.
It is now a fact that Southern Africa does not have world class players at the moment.
The development structures in the several of the country of the region are not simply producing respectable talent that can get coaches, agents and scouts from Europe excited.
Gone are the days when South- ern Africa was represented in top leagues in Europe by the likes of Bruce Grobelaar, Kalusha Bwalya, Lucas Radebe, Benny McCarthy, Adam Ndlovu, Peter Ndlovu, Quinton Fortune, Shaun Bartlett and Benjani Mwaruwari.
These were outstanding performers who could fit into any team in world football.
The decline of Southern African football is also illustrated by the fact that no team from the region quali- fied for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
The qualifying tournaments for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia are on-going. Given current trends and status of football development programmes, it is indeed safe to bet that no team from Southern Africa will make it to the final thirty-two (32) going to Russia in about twelve months’ time.
Southern African teams are ill- equipped to compete with the best in Africa, let alone in the world. The reasons for this malaise are quite obvious to any football lover.
To begin with, the environment established by the football leaders is not conducive to the development of the beautiful game.
The majority of football leaders do not provide dynamic and vis- ible leadership for the acquisition of skills at a tender age through well-structured grassroots pro- grammes.
Furthermore, the adoption of modern scientific means of talent identification and development is alien to most of the various football administrations.
Some of them actually pay lots of money to traditional doctors, san- gomas, and diviners, hoping to win football matches. It is, sadly, a lost cause!
There is an overwhelming ten- dency to opt for quick-fix solutions for success by hiring and firing national coaches.
A quick survey of the vari- ous football administrations will most probably reveal that very few of them have a ten year technical development for production of play- ers who are capable of competing with their peers on the continent and beyond.
The football leaders think that players like Pele, Maradona, Messi, Drogba and Ronaldo are going to crawl out of the woodwork, some- how, through some kind of aston- ishing miracle. Well, this is time for a reality check!
In addition, most of the football leaders are quite comfortable to sit back and relax, waiting for the respective governments to utilize public funds to bail them out of their problems.
They do not have viable strategic plans and marketing initiatives to make their associations financially viable.
Even with the abundant finan- cial support that has recently been extended by the world governing body, FIFA, most Southern African football associations have no clue as to what is really needed to tra rm the game in their countries.