CHILLIN’ WITH SAZI
The good, the bad and the ugly — another typical year for SA football
Sundowns men and women have shone, Bafana have shown signs of improvement, but the PSL is an administrative shambles
What a year 2021 has been for SA football — a rollercoaster ride, from beginning to end.
At times we’ve been on tenterhooks, hoping for some sort of miracle, but in the end some of our high hopes were smashed to smithereens.
There’s very little to celebrate on the home front, though no-one can ignore the achievements of Mamelodi Sundowns. Their men and women’s football teams have been winning trophies like it’s going out of fashion.
The team of Manqoba Mngqithi, Rulani Mokwena and Steve Komphela at Chloorkop has been unrelenting, finishing the DStv Premiership in May as champions — the Brazilians’ fourth league title on the trot and 11th in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) era.
Sundowns success didn’t end there, they added a trophy that’s eluded them for many years — the MTN8 — after beating Cape Town City through penalties in Durban in October.
We a reason to hope and believe that in years to come, this Bafana team will get stronger and stronger, as long we still have Broos at the helm.
Sundowns look set to achieve more in the New Year as they’re currently on top of the Premiership, looking more menacing and set to win a record fifth league title in a row.
There’s also this season’s Caf Champions League and Nedbank Cup that will be wrapped up early in the new year, and Sundowns will be chasing these trophies.
Sundowns’ women’s team has been equally mesmerising. Last week they added a domestic women’s league title on top of being champions in the Cosafa region, as well as the inaugural Caf Women’s Champions League winners. A magnificent and well-deserved treble.
Sundowns’ success has come as a result of their coaches and players being given space to produce results without worrying too much about boardroom politics.
When you talk about 2021, you can’t ignore the ugly side of our professional football.
But before I come to the PSL’s off-the-field shenanigans, I think it would be remiss of me not to say a few things about Bafana Bafana, who have had a year which was mixture of hope and misery.
We had hope, because in the new Bafana coach Hugo Broos we seem to have found a man who’s not afraid to bring in the needed changes, and the results are there for everyone to see.
Since taking over in May, the Belgian has played six official matches, all 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers, and only one defeat in those matches prevented the team from progressing to the final qualifying round in the New Year.
Broos had the guts to bring a 19-year-old Ethan Brooks and other unknown young players such as Bongokuhle Hlongwane, 21, and Evidence Makgopa, 21, into Bafana Bafana squad. He did wonders with them, winning four qualifiers on the trot, before controversially losing the final qualifier away to Ghana last month.
We have reason to hope and believe that in years to come, this Bafana team will get stronger and stronger, as long we still have Broos at the helm. We’re hopeful, indeed, that Bafana may qualify for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, after missing out on next year’s tournament with Molefi Ntseki at the helm, before Broos’s arrival.
But this year’s football script would not be complete without highlighting the ugly side of the PSL.
Just as the PSL started 2021 controversially, considering how Royal AM’s promotion was dealt with at the end of the 2020-2021 campaign, the league is now ending the year in an even more chaotic fashion.
It is difficult to understand how they’re handling Kaizer Chiefs’ request to have all their Premiership matches in December postponed, because they have reported as many as 36 Covid-19 cases in their camp.
The league’s silence has been deafening, the same as it was when Royal’s matter ended in up court in June.
That Royal complaint may have ended in SA courts, but it may still come back to haunt and embarrass them if the Durban club eventually gets the straight promotion it wanted at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, in the coming months.
The way the PSL is handling Chiefs’ request, which as I write we don’t know has been granted or not — almost a week after it was tabled — has been embarrassing to say the least. But we shouldn’t be surprised.
We all know the PSL’s current structure will always invite trouble to itself. And with this Chiefs matter, I have to say it has come to that point.
You simply can’t be both a player and referee, and then be expected to make decisions that will satisfy all sides, all the time.
The PSL is governed by its own club members, and those club members employ people to rule on the matters that affect these clubs. That’s where the lines become blurred and where the problems start.
The Chiefs matter has become a hot potato for the PSL, because it involves and affects one of the league’s esteemed executive members, Chiefs boss Kaizer Motaung.
It may have been easy for the PSL to deal with matters involving “smaller clubs”, but some of the decisions they’ve taken against those smaller clubs are now coming back to bite the league, when they need to apply them against the bigger guys such as Chiefs.
But the Chiefs saga may prove to be what is needed for everyone to realise that SA professional football is in desperate need of a complete overhaul — one that will have clean and independent people running it.
While it may have worked in the past to have Orlando Pirates boss Irvin Khoza as chair of the league, with another club owner Mato Madlala of Lamontville Golden Arrows operating as acting CEO for more than six years, the PSL will never be seen in a good light.
So it’s been that sort of year for our football, and the interesting part is that we still need fasten our seatbelts because there may still be more twists and turns before we see the new year.
For everyone’s sake, let’s hope 2022 will usher in fresher and better vibes for us.