JOHANNESBURG – It’s not only the start of a new year, but also a new decade, so I have put together a list of five things I would like to see change in South African football in 2020.
Improvement in refereeing
The Premier Soccer League (PSL) continues to set high standards on the continent with how it’s professionally run.
In November they declared a record R1-billion in revenue for the 2018/19 season.
It’s an achievement that needs to be celebrated, especially in these tough economic times where sponsors are either pulling out or are tightening their belts.
But what should be a cause for concern for the PSL is the dropping standards of officiating.
Of course the PSL isn’t directly to blame for them as referees are sourced from and are managed by the South African Football Association (Safa).
But those referees officiate in PSL matches, and it is the organisation’s reputation that’s taking a battering from the official’s mistakes.
In almost every match there is an officiating mistake.
The situation has reached crisis level.
It needs to be addressed so that discussions about the local game aren’t just about officials, but they are about the players that supporters pay lots of money to see.
The PSL has said that they have spoken to Safa to discuss the introduction of Video Assistant Referee (VAR). But that should be the last resort, referees have to be empowered and treated better before technology is introduced.
No more late arrivals in big games
It’s always special to get notifications from clubs and the PSL that matches have been sold-out.
For a number of reasons, sold out crowds aren’t a regular occurrence in football.
Issues like transport and the time games are scheduled (with a large portion of them scheduled to appease TV viewers more than those who actually go to the stadium) are some of the factors that contribute to this.
This is why it is important that the PSL prioritises the fans who go to the stadium over those who watch the match in the comfort of their home.
Public transport in the country is quite poor, and at night it’s not safe and almost non-existence in certain quarters.
This is a big problem as many football supporters rely on it to get to stadiums.
But with that said, there is a terrible culture of late coming that needs to be addressed before someone dies in a stampede.
It’s as if our supporters do this intentionally because they know that if there is more of them outside, the game won’t start.
This has affected a number of big games, some playing on weekends where supporters really have no excuses for being late.
More South African players going abroad
The sight of Percy Tau walking into the Santiago Bernabeu to face European football royalty, Real Madrid, was special.
The Brighton & Hove Albion forward, who is on loan in Belgium at Club Brugge, also visited the iconic Parc de Princes, home of Paris Saint-Germain in his first season of Uefa Champions League football.
Tau’s rise has been meteoric, from being sent out on loan by Mamelodi Sundowns to the first division to returning stronger to win the CAF Champions League.
His star grows with each passing day, while he is showered with love by many South African football supporters who are inspired by his story.
Even though he isn’t playing in England because of his work permit struggles, Tau’s growth in European football is inspiration.
It should send a strong message to many South African children that their dreams are valid, and can be achieved through hard work and determination.
His progress and that of players like Keagan Dolly and Bongani Zungu should inspire a new breed of South African footballers – players who are willing to step out of their comfort zones, and test themselves against the best in the world. That would make Bafana a stronger team.
A consistent Bafana
Bafana Bafana’s victory over Egypt at Cairo International Stadium in the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) was special for so many reasons.
Not only did it shock the continent, after Bafana’s woeful performance in the group stage, but it also gave the team hope that they can hold their own against some of the best teams on the continent.
But then they went and produced a sheepish performance against Nigeria in the quarter-finals to get eliminated by the Super Eagles.
The Afcon in Egypt showed the numerous faces that the team wears.
There was the side that’s terrible in front of goal, scoring just one goal in the group stage and lacking creativity. But there was also the giant killer.
Bafana have a penchant of raising their game against the best, producing dramatic wins that not many people in the country expect.
The problem is that the side performs poorly in games where everyone expects them to do well.
This inconsistency is the reason why Bafana struggles to qualify for major tournaments despite being well-resourced and better financed than many other national teams on the continent.
Addressing this phenomenon will be coach Molefi Ntseki’s biggest challenge.
Another continental title
It’s nice to see more South African clubs taking continental football seriously.
For a long time, a lot of clubs viewed representing the country as a burden.
This was due to the expensive nature of playing continental football, poor pay for winners, daunting travelling, ill-treatment overseas and essentially success on the continent not viewed as a priority by supporters.
But that is slowly starting to change with a different attitude and financial injection by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
A year after Mamelodi Sundowns won the Champions League, their neighbours SuperSport United reached the final of the CAF Confederation Cup.
This season the country has two representatives in the group stage of the Champions League (Sundowns) and Confederation Cup (Bidvest Wits). It’s a welcome change.
But what would make it more special is if the country were to get another continental title.
Sundowns have started their Champions League campaign well while the Clever Boys seem to be on a resurgence after struggling in the earlier parts of this season.
It’s shameful that South African clubs only have three proper continental titles.
That needs to change with our teams achieving more success in these competitions.