Exclusive Interview: Bafana Star Matthew Booth

All Things Jabu is a huge fan of football and think we are not too bad at the sport ourselves! In 2009 I managed to attend 5 of the games at the Confederations Cup and in 2010 a total of 11 World Cup games. The highlight of my Confederations Cup and World Cup experience was watching Bafana in action. They captivated the country in ways not really seen before over the next 12 months. A player who got to share a big part of that experience was the man affectionately known to crowds as Booooooooth! We sat down with the Ajax defender and chatted about the beautiful game!

All Things Jabu (ATJ): Matthew, first and foremost, thank you for taking the time to chat with us, how are you doing?
Matthew Booth (MB): Pretty good thanks, I’ve recovered from a long term injury so I’m ecstatic to be back on the field. 

ATJ: We are really excited that you are back in action? Are you excited to be playing again in Cape Town?
MB: I’m over the moon to be simply playing again so to be playing back in my hometown is the cherry on top. There has been no need for a ‘settling down’ period.

ATJ: Having played in Europe, what do you think it takes for a young South African to make it over there?
MB: Determination, courage, intelligence and a need to get out of one’s comfort zone… Too many local players are happy with R30-40k pm and the latest BMW in their garage! Europe offers so much more and not just material things but elements which will add positively to your character.

ATJ: Steven Pienaar and May Mahlangu aside, a lot of our boys are sitting on the bench in Europe, why do you think they are struggling to breakthrough?
MB: The biggest problem is a lack of development locally, especially at grassroots level. Steven, May, Benni (all our success stories) went overseas at a young age. All their bad habits were knocked out early but without losing their original flair which had caught the eye. 

ATJ: Were you disappointed in your status as a backup at the World Cup, especially after having such a prominent Confederations Cup?
MB: Absolutely! But I saw it coming when Perreira made his return. I tried my best to change his mind but unfortunately it seemed his mind was made up. A year in football is a long time 

ATJ: Do you see yourself breaking back into the Bafana squad again?
MB: No because Mosimane quite rightly must focus on younger players now for Brazil 2014. But my desire to play for the country has never diminished.

ATJ: What does the Russian League have that the PSL is missing?
MB: They both have their pros and cons but the main difference is that Russian clubs have made an imprint on Europe and SA clubs haven’t done the same on the African continent. Financially and populace wise we really should be dominating internationally and at club level. 

ATJ: What is your take on the SAFA fiasco and the inability to qualify for the AFCON from a seemingly qualified place already?
MB: Well I didn’t take part as you know, but was still deeply embarrassed by what occurred! We should be qualifying easily, especially if you consider our opponents historical and current disadvantages.

ATJ: If you can answer this, do you think that Pitso is still the right man to carry South Africa forward to the 2014 World Cup. If not, who do you think should be appointed?
MB: I think he is purely because we should be giving coaches at least 2 years to make an impact on a team. We are traditionally too impatient with coaches. Having said that I think other coaches in our local league should have been given their chance ahead of Pitso. 

ATJ: What needs to change in South African football to ensure that there’s real youth development happening locally and at the local PSL clubs?
MB: Cut out politics (yeah right!), introduce football to all schools, structure and organise our amateur football a lot better and create provincial schools of excellence under the auspices of SAFA. That’s just to start with!

ATJ: Okay how about the PSL, has the standard improved from when you left to play in Russia to when you returned to play at Sundowns?
MB: Yes, absolutely and the best legacy of the 2010 World Cup has been the fact that we now have football specific stadia with surfaces which are conducive to good football. 

ATJ: Lately there has been a trend for local players to play in Europe for only one or two seasons before making moves back to South African clubs. Do you think that they should stick it out longer and try and make international moves stick?
MB: Without a doubt! But we come back to the development question again and the lure of the local PSL which is starting to pay players well. 

ATJ: Do you think that the policy of selecting local players over players playing overseas is the right one?
MB: I don’t think that it is a policy as such, it’s just that we don’t seem to have many quality players overseas in established leagues. 

ATJ: What has been the highlight of your career?
MB: Beating Brazil in the Olympics in 2000, Confed cup 2009 and being part of WC 2010.

ATJ: Having played with both, who would you put in goals for Bafana? Wayne Sandilands or Itumeleng Khune?
MB: That’s a difficult one! I would like to throw Josephs in the mix as well. Wayne still needs international experience but has the determination to push Khune all the way. The 3 of them create a sense of security in that department.

ATJ: Matthew thanks so much for the chat, good luck for the rest of the season for you and your team
MB: Was a pleasure, no problem! Cheers 

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