READER’S VIEW: Not another foreign coach!

Bafana

I am writing this letter in the interests of South African football and as a concerned football supporter, who doesn’t like the direction that our football is taking if reports of either Stephen Keshi or Carlos Quieroz as possible Gordon Igesund successors are anything to go by.

If either of these two men or any other foreign coach is chosen to lead Bafana Bafana, unfortunately we will continue on this downward trajectory. I am going to start with facts and then at the end of my piece express an opinion, I just hope that within SAFA and the PSL there are still administrators who can not only read but google as well to verify those facts.

Since the inception of the world cup 84 years ago, in 1930, no foreign coach has ever led their adopted country to world cup victory and for ease of reference I took the pleasure of compiling the list of previous world cup winners, their coaches and the coach’s country of birth:

1.       Spain, 2010 Vicente Del Bosque (Spain)

2.       Italy, 2006 Marcello Lippi (Italy)

3.       Brazil, 2002 Luiz Felipe Scolari (Brazil)

4.       France, 1998 Aime Jacquet (France)

5.       Brazil, 1994 Carlos Alberto Parreira (Brazil)

6.       Germany, 1990 Frans Beckenbauer (Germany)

7.       Argentina, 1986 Carlos Bilardo (Argentina)

8.       Italy, 1982 Enzo Bearzot (Italy)

9.       Argentina, 1978 Cesar Luis Menotti (Argentina)

10.   Germany, 1974 Helmut Schoen (Germany)

11.   Brazil, 1970 Zagallo (Brazil)

12.   England, 1966 Alf Ramsey (England)

13.   Brazil, 1962 Anymore Moreira (Brazil)

14.   Brazil, 1958 Vicente Feola (Brazil)

15.   Germany, 1954 Sepp Herberger (Germany)

16.   Uruguay, 1950 Juan Lopez (Uruguay)

17.   Italy, 1938 Vittorio Pozzo (Italy)

18.   Italy, 1934 Vittorio Pozzo (Italy)

19.   Uruguay, 1930 Alberto Suppici (Uruguay)

This trend is unlikely to change if the current last 8 teams are anything to go by, and again for ease of reference I took the liberty to compile a list of the teams that are still left in the world cup, their coaches and the coach’s country of birth:

1.       Brazil, Luiz Felipe Scolari (Brazil)

2.       Argentina, Alejandro Sabella (Argentina)

3.       Germany, Joachim Low (Germany)

4.       Belgium, Marc Wilmots (Belgium)

5.       Netherlands, Luis van Gaal (Netherlands)

6.       France, Didier Deschamps (France)

7.       Colombia, Jose Pekerman (Born in Argentina, naturalised Colombian)

8.       Costa Rica, Jorge Luis Pinto (Colombian)

History tells us that going into the final stretch of World Cup 2014, Colombia and Costa Rica are already on the back foot if we are to assume that a coach’s nationality is a factor in winning the world cup trophy.

This phenomenon is not unique to world football but to South Africa as well, therefore it might be too much to expect our administrators to base our success on international standards. Let me then bring the facts closer to home and use the AFCON cup as a “measure” of success. Our best results in the African showpiece were achieved when we were coached by our very own:

1.       Clive Barker, 1996 AFCON champions (it’s worth a mention that he also qualified for the ’98 world cup, and a foreign coach was appointed to go and embarrass us at that world cup)

2.       Jomo Sono, 1998 AFCON runners up

3.       Trott Moloto, 2000 AFCON 3rd place

Understanding the brand and the culture in league and national contexts are mutually exclusive, applying tactics and strategies to different nationalities within a club is very different to applying those tactics and strategies to the same nationalities within a squad. The concept is easy to understand but a bit tricky to apply, in a club situation where there are different nationalities the coach (either local or foreign) with the superior tactics and strategies will likely succeed. One might then ask why Gordon Igesund or Pitso Mosimane didn’t succeed because the “culture” part was already taken care of by virtue of them being South Africans, well the answer is very simple a very weak youth development structure, a weak PSL and possibly poor tactics.

Any coach that is tactically strong and possesses good strategies can win the league with any club in any country, hence the Mourinhos of this world can win leagues in four different countries or a Stuart Baxter can win the league with Kaizer Chiefs. Stuart Baxter and Ted Dumitri won back to back league titles with Kaizer Chiefs but that didn’t guarantee them success with the South African national team. Based on this I doubt Jose Mourinho will ever win the World Cup with England, Italy and Spain let alone take up the challenge but I give him a long shot that he might with Portugal.

The methodology of winning on an international platform is not isolated to tactics only, and the 3 gentlemen I mentioned above are master tacticians, but is aligned to a particular brand of football that can be easily identifiable with that country. A strong league with 2 to 3 very strong teams that comprises mostly that country’s players can easily feed those players into the national set up:

- Spain’s brand of football can be directly linked to the brand of football that Barcelona plays

- Germany’s brand of football can be linked to how Bayern Munich plays

- Netherland’s brand of football to Ajax

- Italy’s brand of football to AC Milan

I mention these countries not necessarily as previous world cup winners but as examples of why they are likely to do well on an international stage like the world cup based on the link from club to country. Football evolves all the time therefore the methods, brand and type of football each country plays needs to be re-visited and re-invented all the time to keep up with the current standards meaning what worked four years ago doesn’t necessarily mean it will work four years later:

-          Brazil’s brand of football (The Samba) was successful in 2002, but 4 years later that same brand of football let them down in 2006.(lack of re-invention)

-          Italy’s brand of football was effective in the 2006 world cup, aligned to Milan winning the champion’s league in the 2006/07 season.(knocked out in the 1st round of WC 2010)

-          Then came Spain with their unique brand of football in the 2010 world cup, Barcelona took the 2010/11 edition of the champions league.(knocked out in the 1st round of WC 2014, furthermore Spain’s dismal performance can be directly linked to a trophyless Barcelona in the 2013/14 season)

England, just like South Africa, will never win the World Cup because of an influx of foreign players, foreign coaches and good marketing which has them under the illusion that they have the best league in the world. In their league it is easy to identify the top 4 teams, but in those top 4 teams the quality of English players is far inferior to their foreign counterparts and whenever they get to the world cup this small little fact is exposed. I dare any SAFA official or FA official to put it to us the kind of brand/style of football Bafana Bafana and England are playing right now that is unique to those two countries, and align that particular brand of football to a specific club in that country’s league.

No foreign coach is going to fix our footballing problems, even if we get Alex Ferguson as head coach, Jose Morihno as his assistant and Luiz Felipe Scolari as technical director for Bafana Bafana it is not going to work.

We need strong football administrators, who don’t have hidden agendas and are only interested in generating revenue that paints the PSL as the “best” league in Africa by virtue of being well marketed. We need administrators who can actually identify our problems, isolate them and come up with tangible solutions to deal with those problems. What we don’t need is the same old solutions packaged as new, where a foreign coach comes to South Africa and has to “learn our football culture” and then fails dismally and gets a golden handshake (and the money for these “handshakes” will always be there because our product(PSL) is easily marketable just like the EPL but kills our national team, just like the EPL has murdered the English squad), then a poor South African coach gets roped in to try and fix what is essentially a hopeless situation.

Instead of SAFA asking our players and the general public to be patriotic about Bafana Bafana, we should be posing a simple question to some PSL club owners and SAFA administrators: “Are you interested in developing a strong national squad that competes with the best on an international platform or are you interested in lining your pockets at the expense of the national team just like your English counterparts?”

Minister Fikile Mbalula’s “bunch of losers” comments were unfortunately misdirected at our poor players (who just happen to be victims of circumstances that they didn’t create), the truth of the matter is that some PSL club owners have let the country down together with their SAFA colleagues and those are the real “bunch of losers” and they have been for the last 13 years plus.

By Mothusi Matshe
The Orchards, Pretoria

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