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Against a backdrop of bluster, allegations of death threats, court action and representations to both Fifa and the Confederation of African Football by his main opponent, Ria Ledwaba, Danny Jordaan will continue as head of the SA Football Association (Safa) for four more years.
In the end, and not unexpectedly, the 70-year-old incumbent won by a landslide, claiming 186 votes to the 27 garnered by former vice-president Ledwaba and the eight bagged by Safa Tshwane president Solly Mohlabeng.
As he starts his third term in a position he first assumed in September 2013, Jordaan and his executive should embrace and acknowledge the huge challenge they face in trying to lead SA football to its rightful place as a powerhouse on the African continent.
One of Safa’s main tasks is to restore the credibility of Bafana Bafana as the flagship of the organisation. It’s all well and good to highlight the achievements of the junior national teams — the Under-20s qualifying for the 2017 and 2019 World Cups, the Under-23s participating at the last two Olympics and the Under-17 women playing at the 2010 and 2018 World Cups — and Banyana Banyana featuring at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and the 2019 World Cup, but Bafana Bafana will always remain the yardstick of the state of health of SA football.
The quality of the senior men’s team, ranked a lowly 68th in the world and 12th in Africa, is directly related to the pipeline of junior talent coming through the systems, which require serious attention.
If Jordaan were to bequeath a major legacy when he finally leaves office in 2026, as promised after his re-election, it would be to ensure that schools football is organised, thriving and producing talent much like its rugby and cricket counterparts have been doing.
The quality of football in SA is nowhere near reaching the tremendous potential that exists in this country. Despite an abundance of natural talent, the chief reason for this sad state of affairs is because not enough resources are invested in the critical phase of early development. It is at school level that most children first participate in organised sport and it is here where Safa, together with the department of sport, art and culture, have failed aspirant young footballers.
There is absolutely no reason there should not be organised schools competitions in the nine provinces and for annual age-group provincial tournaments to be organised in the way it was done by the highly efficient Sacos-affiliated SA Senior Schools Sports Association (Sasssa) and its primary schools equivalent, Sapssa. There is nothing more satisfying for an aspirant young sportsperson to represent his or her province against their peers from other parts of the country and then going on to win national schools colours.
The depth and quality of the rugby and cricket talent pools stem largely from their highly successful national weeks, and as much as some would argue that those competitions are a legacy of apartheid, such national weeks for virtually all sporting codes also existed under the auspices of the old Sasssa and Sapssa.
During his new term, Jordaan should also deliver on Safa’s promise to establish nine provincial academies to develop the talents of promising young footballers. To date, it’s only the KwaZulu-Natal academy that’s functioning. It’s worth noting that the academy is a private entity that was initiated by Carlos Catalino and Gugu Marawa — Safa came on board later to provide financial muscle through the 2010 World Cup Legacy Trust.
The KZN Academy has already proven its effectiveness in harnessing and polishing the province’s talented young footballers. Since its inception in 2014 several of its products, including the likes of Sphephelo Sithole (Belenenses, Portugal), Thabo Cele (Radiomak Radom, Poland), Nkanyiso Zungu (Orlando Pirates) and a host of others who are based mainly in Portugal, serve as proof of the potential conveyor belt of talent the provincial academies could become.
There’s also the long-awaited appointment of a technical director. Frans Mogashoa, Safa’s head of coaching education, has been acting in the position since Neil Tovey’s contract expired two years ago. It is imperative that the position be filled urgently on a permanent basis as the incumbent has the important task of giving direction to the growth and development of the game in the technical sphere, which encompasses everything from organising coaching programmes, performance analysis and even devising health and nutrition programmes.
Jordaan has committed to working towards a range of ideals, which Safa will do exceedingly well to deliver under his watch. These include the introduction of a fully professional women’s league in four years time, strengthening schools football, formulating a clear pathway from junior to senior international football, a strong technical plan to support the game in SA and producing a Bafana team that’s competitive.
The Safa president has talked big and there’s no better time than now for him and his organisation to roll up their sleeves and start walking that talk.
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.