Ex-Bafana Bafana star Siphiwe Tshabalala believes the production of more Steven Pienaars and Benni McCarthys is what will return the national team to its former glory.
With South Africa celebrating 10 years since the historic first hosting of the FIFA World Cup on African soil, many feel SAFA have failed to make good of the investment, exposure and facilities brought upon by this event.
Bafana remain 71st in the world and 13th on the continent, according to the FIFA Rankings, and have failed to qualify for a single World Cup since 2002 – outside of automatic qualification as hosts in 2010.
Having waited until the age of 34 before moving abroad, 'Shabba' feels a key lesson from his career is that local players need to move overseas at a much earlier age in order to excel and gain real value that can help the national team progress on the international stage.
"We need to send players abroad to get proper development, proper mentorship and play in the big leagues, so they can bring that experience in South Africa," the former Kaizer Chiefs winger told the SA Football Journalists' Association.
"Ghana, Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire, Cameroon – if you look at the rankings, they are always there in the top 10 [in Africa], and their core and starting line-ups are overseas-based players.
"So they are helping the national team improve with experience. We've got great players here in South Africa that deserve to play abroad. When an opportunity presents itself, they have to take it.
"We need more Steve Pienaars; we need more Benni McCarthys; we must export, export, export, and it will definitely pay off. It will benefit the national team in a big way.
"I remember the class of '96, most of those players were playing abroad and our national team was the best. In '98, it was the same – I think we lost in the finals of the AFCON, and in 2000 in the semi-finals – we kept on dropping.
"So, obviously this is a process that we need to be patient with and it's one where we should focus more on our development and train youngsters properly, so that they can come back and really serve the national team and represent the country well."
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