Watching Bafana Bafana go out against Mali in the AFCON, and looking at the squad we have together, I started wondering why so many of our players are locally based, more so why so many of them have returned from very brief contracts abroad. Looking at the 2002 squad that almost made the World Cup knockout stages you will see the squad was mostly overseas based (16 out of 23 were based outside SA, compared to an AFCON 2013 side that had 16 local players). There was a lot of comment on how playing in an inferior Chinese league had affected Drogba’s level of performance in the tournament and you have to say that if our players were plying their trade in a better league our performance could improve as well.
The PSL has encouraged young players to return to the PSL before they should, on twitter the other day Neal Collins even told another fan how Dean Furman could earn more here than at Doncaster Rovers. We now have Gaxa, Parker and Masilela back in the PSL when they should be playing in Europe at the peak of their careers. This experience would then help the national team develop. Parker, for example, in 2 years since the World Cup, is in my opinion, half the player he was then. I feel that the PSL is the big culprit in this regard. The PSL has almost too much money for the level of competition that is present. I think that perhaps a rethink of structure would help. Allowing more foreigners into the league could raise standards and make the PSL a stronger league, a league that actually competes on the continent (which has not been done to such a level that SA only gets one Champions League spot). The PSL has become an easy, well-paying place for the local players to be. Unfortunately this doesn’t help the development of the game, nor the national team.
This would be fine if the PSL was highly competitive in world terms, but their constant failure in African football shows that it is only perceived strength.The PSL for all its money should be a lot stronger and more competitive. Perhaps it’s time for the PSL to rethink its structure and rules to encourage a more positive growth in the local game and to players that are worth the amounts of money the clubs think they’re worth. The English Premier League gained a lot from foreigners joining their league and I think the PSL should allow more African players into the local league to up the game. There is also the issue with the depth of youth systems at the clubs, which needs to improve. If more highly talented players come in from Africa, hopefully the local players will up their game to compete. They also need to sort out the playoff system between the PSL and NFD, but that’s a different article completely! I think we need to be looking at the South American leagues rather than the European Leagues for inspiration.
The clubs seem, according to a very good source, to overvalue the local players, resulting in foreign clubs being less willing to take a chance on our players. Post the World Cup, pending deals for Katlego Mphela, Siphiwe Tshabalala and Itumeleng Khune looked destined to happen but suddenly fell flat. If these players were allowed to go and develop in stronger leagues, that would make for stronger and better players in the future. Look at the struggle Siyanda Xulu had in order to go to Rostov in Russia; this shouldn’t be the case at all. I’ve heard that the local agents are also a hindrance but surely this is something that can be worked around? Two stars of the tournament for South Africa were Dean Furman and May Mahlangu, both playing abroad at a high if not the highest level, and look how they’ve developed. Our pampered local stars should be looking at moves to clubs like this instead of holding out for the big money moves. Look at Bongani Khumalo who is much happier at PAOK than Tottenham Hotspurs. At PAOK he plays regularly and the Greek Leagues are highly competitive, if not as glamorous as the English Leagues.
We are lucky that Igesund hasn’t been shafted post AFCON and we have a national coach who has a proper long term plan for the team. Hopefully we will see a rethink of the PSL because we need our players competing at a higher level, to ensure that Bafana too can compete at a higher level. I mean, isnt that what we ultimately want?
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