PSL: A striking lack of goals means fewer bums on seats
Local league needs coaches with the killer instinct
Fans may well fanatically follow their football teams, but what sport in 2018 is essentially selling is entertainment and the success or failure of a competition can be assessed by the vibrancy of the product it produces.
The Absa Premiership looks as though it will be a tight race this year, closer than in the past few seasons at least, but the struggle of teams in the final third of the pitch remains a worry … and something of a mystery.
Certainly there is much to admire in the local product – the tempo of the game is a lot higher than in many other leagues, and there are often excellent individual skills on show.
But drawing fans to the stadium and to watch on TV, with all the other distractions in life these days, means you need to be providing something that is “must-see”.For reasons that are difficult to fathom there has been a dearth of goals in the current campaign, making life a lot harder in terms of getting bums on seats.
In the 165 games played to the start of this week, there have been only 333 goals scored, equating to almost exactly two per match.
Compare that to France (2.66 goals per game), England and Italy (both 2.70) and Spain and Germany (both 2.74), and the Premiership just doesn’t stack up.
Of course those leagues contain the best players in the world and the standard is much higher, so you would expect that, but the general sense of attacking purpose from teams and the innovation in their play is generally of a much higher level.
The argument is often made in South Africa that with the scientific data available to coaches, and there is plenty, teams are a closed book and it is easy to set up against them … if your intention is not to lose.
But where is the innovation, where is the thinking “out the box” to come up with solutions? At times coaches seem to be relying on the mistakes of the opposition rather than good play from their own team to win matches.
Of those 165 games, 60 have ended in draws, a whopping 37% of games that have produced no winner.And there perhaps lies the crux. It is my feeling that too many coaches (again, certainly not all) go into games not to lose them rather than looking for the win from the outset.
Perhaps that is understandable in a league where the stakes are high and the difference between being in the top flight and the National First Division is worth tens of millions of rand.
And in a league where many club chairmen are trigger-happy when it comes to hiring and firing, results are all that matter. But the football suffers along the way and we run the risk of turning audiences off.
There are other factors too – there is no doubt that the goals tally would be much higher were it not for the at times comical finishing from many highly-paid professional footballers.
Just about every premiership coach will point to that as a major fault in their teams and, to be fair to them, they can only do so much to alleviate that problem.
That being said, while we have goalkeeper coaches in the local league, it still surprises me we do not have “striker coaches”, as it is a specialist skill too that is about a lot more than just putting the ball in the back of the net.
The product has also been hurt by the officiating this season – from the overzealous officials too quick on the whistle and to flash the cards, to those that do not appear to know the rules, and finally the ones who are simply incompetent.
There is nothing more frustrating for fans (and coaches and players) than when the match officials get it wrong and, while nobody is perfect and mistakes happen, they should not be happening every week.