The last 10 years has seen a rapid decline in South Africans moving abroad, with many going only as far as the developing leagues, such as Belgium, Sweden and lately France.
Bafana no longer have representatives in the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A or German Bundesliga, which are widely considered the top leagues in the world.
Radebe considers this a major contributing factor to the nation’s failure to emulate the classes of 1998 and 2002 in qualifying for the FIFA World Cup.
“It’s totally different now, I think. Then we had individuals who – yes, had talent, but combined that with the passion and love for the game,” said Radebe.
“That’s a combination that made us successful, with the rallying of South African supporters behind us – it was absolutely amazing [back then].
“If you look at the individuals that we had, players that were playing football abroad. For me, that’s the key to success – having players that will compete as individuals abroad and bring that experience back to the national team – that made us a force.”
The 48-year-old former defender, who made over 200 appearances for Leeds United, also remembers suffering setbacks with the national team but says inspiration always came from individuals that were doing well abroad.
“I remember when we were getting beaten, we were dubbed ‘four-by-fours’ because we were getting hammered left, right and centre by the likes of Zimbabwe and Nigeria,” he added.
“But still, for us it was a learning curve. We never gave up because I think we believed in ourselves and we showed that as time went on.
“With the ‘Madiba Magic’ we managed to qualify for France ’98, which was an amazing experience, and that’s when we really started showcasing the talent we had in our country.
“Having the chance to later go and play in Japan/Korea in ‘02, which I think was our best World Cup, even though we didn’t go to the second round but we came close.
“Again, it was the individuals within the team that was the succession plan – players likes Benni McCarthy, Quinton Fortune were coming up and they played a key part.”