Safa takes its eye off the Bafana ball ... yet again

Sport

Safa takes its eye off the Bafana ball ... yet again

No matches organised despite plenty of opportunity

Soccer writer

Missing out on the Soccer World Cup has been a massive blow for Bafana Bafana and, indeed, South African football as a whole but there are still many ways to keep up the country’s profile, even if the national team has slumped to a lowly ranking of 78 in the world.
But those charged with protecting the brand and promoting the local game look to have spurned a good opportunity to keep the country in the spotlight because they have likely had their eye off the ball … again.
A lack of proactivity means the South African Football Association, which likes to insist it wants to be a world-class organisation, is still scrambling to find opponents for the team to play next month when at least two fixtures can be fitted into the Fifa window.
It said it  would announce details two weeks ago. Now officials say there might be some clarity in the coming days.It is a disappointment to see a country of South Africa’s stature and prestige scrambling to find opponents for friendly matches, particularly so close to the World Cup when Bafana Bafana could be useful to many countries who want to take on African opposition as part of their preparations for the  tournament in Russia.
It was already apparent in November that South Africa’s chances of going to Russia were slim as they went into the last month of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers needing to win both home and away against a powerful Senegal side.
It was then that Safa should have begun looking ahead to 2018 and what they could do to still stay on the World Cup bandwagon, even if as part of the supporting cast.
The obvious way would be to offer Bafana’s service as a team for the Russia-bound countries to warm up against, especially major powers like Argentina, Belgium, England, Japan, Portugal, Spain and Uruguay who bring not only star appeal but also would earn Safa some decent income with a share of the match rights.
The task of fixing these games was made even easier, around the same time, when the Confederation of African Football postponed a round of planned African Nations Cup qualifiers in March, leaving the dates open.But all the top associations wasted no time after the World Cup draw in fixing matches.
England, for example, are going to host Nigeria at Wembley in June while Portugal take on Egypt next  month.
Japan are to play Mali in Europe in March. Mali? Really?
Had Safa been awake they surely would have got the invitation instead.
We wait to see who Bafana play but if it is to be the likes of Namibia and Uganda, you can understand why the public are uninterested.
The Bafana brand has long been devalued by a lack of foresight. Or could it be that the priorities of those who lead the game in this country are self-serving.
The upcoming Safa elections, where president Danny Jordaan faces a possible challenge, are set for slap bang in the middle of the international window. They will be held on March 24.
Could that be the real priority?
For the future of our national team let’s hope not.

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