Not in the Player’s Name, Mr Minister.

The South Africa Football Players Union (SAFPU) is shocked by the statement made by the minister of sports Mr Fikile Mbalula when he called the team that lost to Nigeria in the CHAN 2014, useless bunch of losers and not respecting the country. First and foremost the players cannot be blamed for our country poor showings in all football tournaments. Players are always blamed or are used as scape-goat whenever we lose games. In football a team is formed by the players, Technical and medical teams including the kit managers as well as the drivers. These are the people who forms a team that will bring us results on the day.

If we look back since we won the AFCON in 1996 we never won anything after that and we never asked ourselves ` WHY`? In South Africa we do not have the right development structures in place and we do not look after our junior teams and grow them to graduate up to the senior level.

Football game does not start when the players get into the pitch, but it starts with preparations. With preparations we talk the development and the support structures of the players from junior teams to the senior teams. In September 2000 we had a good team of under 23s representing our country in the Olympics and they went on to beat Brazil 3-1 to draw level on points with the South Americans in their group. The world were starting to recognize our country and the talent it possessed. Since then to date we never had a team of under 23s that qualified for the Olympics or an international or even CAF tournament.

Remember September 9 2003 South Africa was tipped the future world cup winner because we were judged by our under 12s national team, who won the 2003 DANONE Nations Cup tournament in Paris beating Poland 2-0 in the finals.

That was not all as the very same team brought home four trophies, THE CHAMPIONS TROPHY, LEADING GOAL SCORER TROPHY, BEST TEAM TROPHY AND THE BEST PLAYER TROPHY won by charismatic KAMOHELO MOKOTJO who is currently plying his trade for Pec Zolle on loan from Feyenoord in Netherlands. Now where are his team-mates from the under twelve national team? Did they retire?

What happened to the team that reflected our country as the future world cup winners? Ten years later our players are called useless and bunch of losers and not respecting the country, all those young boys who won the DANONE cup are all 22 year olds today and so the question is, where are they now? Why are they not playing in the national team today? Whose responsibility it is to nature football talent in our country? Maybe Mr Minister is not aware that the problem in our country is that there is no continuity in our football. Again since that under twelve team won the DANONE Trophy there was never a team of under twelves’ that our country produced. The divisions that have been in our football mother-body SAFA also contributed to the poor showing of our national teams. When last did one of our junior teams played in an international tournament be it under 20 or 17?

This are the issues that the minister must address before he can launch attack directly and solely on the players. How are we expected to conquer the world whilst we can’t even conquer Africa? We had teams in the PSL who previously rejected to play in the CAF tournaments because of their own reasons, but hasn’t that contributed to the problem that we are facing with today? We feel that it was going to be an experience for players to get used to playing with teams that are from in and around African continent.

To the contrary, it has been proven that when players are exposed to playing in the African champs, they become better and can compete. Black Leopards, Pirates, platinum Stars and Supersport United are perfect examples. Bafana Bafana is just but the true reflection of our football development as a country. The countries that we compete against have good development structures. The very same Nigeria that beat Bafana Bafana have their junior teams competing in international and continental tournaments. We are talking the champions of Africa that won the AFCON here in our home soil. The difference between South Africa and the likes of Ghana, Nigeria and Ivory Coast is that they have good foundation in their development structures. The reason Spain is dominating world football today is because they started by dominating and winning the junior tournaments and went on to win the world cup with their senior team with the players who would have tasted victory in the junior ranks. It never happened un-expectedly or maybe by luck, it took time and proper planning from their football association.

As SAFPU we wish that every South African can understand that players are always doing their best under trying and difficult conditions to perform and bring about better results, but it does not always work as the foundation that has been laid for them, it is very week and challenging, and therefore cannot be expected to rise to the occasion all of a sudden. If we want a winning Bafana we cannot start building from the senior team, but we must go back to basics and have our development structures in order then we can start expecting better results. We cannot keep doing the same thing time and again and expect different results.

Contrary to what some pockets of the society want us to believe that the minister has called a spade a spade, we are of the view that he missed an opportunity to analyse the situation and lead the nation to the rebirth not only of Bafana Bafana but of our football in general, by confronting key issues that have contributed to the current state of affairs in our game. Such as many commissions in football like the Motimele commission, a clear twelve or sixteen national plan and no results, patriotism amongst those in power (SAFA and PSL).

We would further challenge the minister to not only apologize to the players but to the nation for misleading it about the reasons why we failed to make the quarterfinals of the Chan and any other tournaments we have played/participated in. We call on him to take a holistic responsible approach on this matter.