The scene is set in 2004; on 15th May and within the confines of FIFA’s taciturn Zürich headquarters, to be exact. Nervously awaiting the voting delegates’ influence on a pioneering African-hosted World Cup roughly six years hence, you can imagine, were Egyptian, Moroccan and South African representatives and activists – having witnessed Nigerian and joint-Tunisian and Libyan bids collapse a respective eight months and week earlier. Four years prior, and before any regulations were imposed on the terms served between hosting applications, the South Africans had run footballing powerhouse Germany one vote – that of the abstaining Scottish-born New Zealand official Charlie Dempsey, who cited unrelenting pressure and “an attempt to bribe” from both delegations in the days preceding – close to 2006 hosting rights; they, alongside the CAF-reliant Sepp Blatter, would ensure such displeasure never permeated again. Thus, what later unfolded as the sole circumstance of individual continent application would be exploited in the Southern Hemisphere-state’s favour.
Only overtly revealed five years subsequent to the nation’s idiosyncratic, and occasionally calamitous, accommodation of the globe’s most widely-viewed sporting tournament, and a decade after voting campaigns, however, was quite the extent of bribery and depravity to Swiss-based events, and the preceding stages of hosting applications. Alleging a mere $10 million of persuasive payments to then-FIFA Vice President and CONCACAF President Jack Warner, through the transfer of General Secretary Jérôme Valcke from Danny Jordaan – South African Football Association (SAFA) President – with the apparent intention of aiding developments in Caribbean football, 2015 FBI and Swiss Prosecuting investigations revealed that $1.6 million had found its way into Warner’s personal loan and credit card accounts, $360,000 filtered through to the Trinidadian’s associates, and Warner’s national supermarket chain JTA Supermarkets profited to the extent of $4,860,000. Yet, the Daily Telegraph reported, still Morocco won a ballot that officially was recorded as South Africa’s 14-10-0 defeat of North African opponents boasting superior Africa Cup of Nations, World Cup, CAF Champions League and Club World Cup achievements; Egypt with seven Cup of Nations victories, three World Cup qualifications – including the first of any African nation – 14 Champions League titles and Al-Ahly’s 2006 Club World Cup third-place appearance, while Morocco rival with a respective single victory, four qualifications, five titles and Raja Casablanca’s Club World Cup runners-up 2013 appearance on home soil, while coincidentally the two nations reconvened their rivalry this Saturday in the second leg of this year’s CAF Champions League final between Al-Ahly and Wydad Casablanca, won by the latter.
For a vast state at the cultural and economic forefronts – on current statistics, the ninth most expansive territory, fifth most populous nation and third most productive economy – of a drastically polarised continent, and with the wholly illegitimate patronage of Blatter’s vilifying administration having granted them the responsibility presumably of economically elevating global attention, why have South Africa failed to harness the inherent resources available to them? Their World Cup – Africa’s unifying initial tournament – existed as the first in my transfixed viewing experience, and will forever be cherished in my memory as the four weeks of England’s regression, Frank Lampard’s erroneously disallowed amendment, Germany’s clinical creativity, France’s internal revolt, Italy’s title-defending implosion, Ghana’s criminal misfortune against the scandalous Uruguay, Brazil’s stagnation, Mexico’s promise, Diego Maradona’s eccentric Argentine management, the Netherlands’ endearing defiance of stature and, ultimately, Spain’s tactical primacy and unprecedented global realisation. An inability to establish a national, and even continental, precedent from this achievement – albeit ephemerally blighted by the drone of vuvuzelas – is not solely attributable to the endemic corruption of the state’s momentarily-lauded federation; although the purely coincidental alignment of the aforementioned Jordaan’s embroilment in rape accusations, while still SAFA chief, serves little opposition as a condemning testament.
Failing to maintain the momentum, and much-touted social ‘legacy’, envisioned in World Cup bequeathal is little short of a scandalous disservice to the predominantly ethnically indigenous societal demographic – existing in a state near poverty, and in symbolically supressed disadvantage – that promised sporting empowerment courtesy of the high-profile accomplishments of Siphiwe Tshabalala, Aaron Mokoena, Katlego Mphela, Bongani Khumalo, Itumeleng Khune and who became my innocence-inspired favoured figure, partly for his prowess in Nintendo DS incarnations of the FIFA franchise, striker Bernard Parker. Regardless of the present political vitriol that defines the nation, and the racial conflict that remains despite the influence of the visionary, yet successively betrayed, Nelson Mandela, youths descending from urban townships should not have been defrauded from potential future employment and empowerment by the state, nor footballing federation, and could well have found social salvation had the repercussions of World Cup hosting, regardless of corruption, been realised as financially lucrative, societally unifying and ideologically progressive, as opposed to worthwhile only to enhance political preference or irrelevant to a glaring discrepancy of black inner-city unemployment. Will President Jacob Zuma, subsequent Ministers for Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula and Thembelani Nxesi, and Danny Jordaan, alongside then-Minister Makhenkesi Stofile, have it apathetically, even callously, defined as the least productive ‘legacy’ in World Cup history, while a national team – an institution that could have experienced the cultural influence of maturing talents inspired by the tournament – presently threaten to fail in their second successive World Cup qualifying campaign? In more comprehensive respects; have they proven themselves, and the South African constitution, totally amoral in the circumstances of social emancipation? The ambition of Mandela – whose final public appearance, rather poignantly, was at the Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium for a prestigious final, two decades hence from his first post-prison release speech, at the same site, in 1990 – in both sporting and societal inspiration, is the victim of this circumstance, with the constitutional betrayal of ethics an explicit disgrace to his universal credibility.
Colonial history, including a left-hand traffic law, is evident in all pre-eminent facets of South African culture, yet to define an evident post-apartheid identity – unlike many nations on the continent, all of which have a proportionally smaller European population – is less obvious. Clarifying just how drastic the circumstance is, 4,602,000, or 8.7%, of all South Africans are defined as white, while the next closest states in sheer proportion are the formerly Portuguese outpost of Angola, with 220,000 European descendants representing 1.1% of the nation’s demography, and the previously German/Dutch-settled Namibia, where 154,000 (8%) of inhabitants are of the same broad identity. Implementing this subconscious factor into the realisation of achievement particularly in the organisation of global events in Africa, and you begin to discover the systemic favour of South Africa – presumed as a politically stable and less socially volatile base purely for its vast white, typically middle-class and influential, population – in the distribution of the three most lucrative events the continent has ever witnessed; the 1995 Rugby Union World Cup, the 2003 Cricket World Cup, albeit with three of 15 host cities in Zimbabwe and Kenya, and the aforementioned 2010 World Cup. Additionally, the 2022 Commonwealth Games would have arrived in Durban, the most prominent municipality on the Republiek van Suid-Afrika’s Indian Ocean shoreline, had revelations of financial mismanagement and a wider incapacity for hosting the competition not arisen, further condemning the decree of predominantly privileged European administrators as, at least subconsciously, demographically motivated.
This culture is shared in playing circumstances, or at least was to glaring extents prior to long-overdue institutional reforms. Francois Pienaar led a Springbok squad to famous victory at the 1995 Rugby World Cup, yet that group featured only one black member – winger Chester Williams, who even later revealed a culture of casual racism and abuse in the changing room – and only two selectees in the 2003 Cricket World Cup squad were of native descent, in fast bowlers Makhaya Ntini and Monde Zondeki. To fully comprehend why a sustainable proportion of black supporters remained behind these nationally representative teams in a disgraced white fallout from the expulsion of apartheid requires careful consideration. Mandela, such an inspirational figurehead was he, that when his presence was recognised at the 1995 Rugby final, his initiative directed him towards Pienaar at the victorious final whistle, with iconic images taken from the day demonstrating the genuine belief of the then-President in societal reform, with sport as a unifying and prominent aspect of South African culture. His most loyal regions of ideological support would have adopted this opinion, regardless of what, behind the delirium of victory, was evidently an almost total racial discrepancy.
While concerns still remain today, exemplified by the gradual and fairly moderate change in the decade since the Springboks’ second Rugby World Cup victory – in which two non-white players in Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen featured – having employed their first non-white head coach in Peter de Villiers, yet still demonstrating an illusory typical dominance, around 25 of a squad of 40, of white players, progress has been enacted. It took until 2016 for the Proteas, or national cricket side, to alter its selection policy by enforcing requirements of an average minimum of six Black, and at least two Black African, players in each touring season, confounding reluctance that belied the status of Kagiso Rabada as arguably their outstanding prodigious talent of the past three years, Hashim Amla and Vernon Philander as their most consistent batsman and bowler, respectively, of the past half-decade and the upcoming contingent of Andile Phehlukwayo and Lungi Ngidi, under the guidance of newly-appointed head coach and former West Indies Test bowler Ottis Gibson, the first black coach the side has ever had.
Football is the accessible, working-class anomaly to this rule. Never the reserve of the middle-class, factory-managing white population, for whom the sport was an undignified alternative to the more exclusive, fraternised rugby and cricket, arguably the most prominent national icons of the sport are Benni McCarthy, Steven Pienaar, Lucas Radebe, Shaun Bartlett and Quinton Fortune – each ethnically black products of urban metropoles and their academies. As opposed to the Springbok – still a contentious image for its ties to the apartheid era – and unifying Protea as an image of peace, the nation’s footballers operate under the guise of Bafana Bafana, a Zulu phrase literally meaning “The boys, the boys”, while only three – former Oldham midfielder Dean Furman, goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands and striker Bradley Grobler – white players, or 12% of the 25-man squad, represent the side currently, thus defining the institution as perhaps a single accurately representative aspect of South African sport.
This squad, however, is struggling. Languishing last in CAF World Cup 2018 Qualifying Group D proceedings currently, while approaching a decisive final window, Bafana Bafana’s game in hand counts for nothing against geographically incomparable usurpers Cape Verde and Burkina Faso, as they face as-yet undefeated group leaders Senegal home and away in the space of five days, courtesy of the annulment of a 2-1 victory in November 2016 after Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey was banned for life for match manipulation in awarding a penalty for fictional handball against Kalidou Koulibaly of the Lions of Teranga. Only two members of what could have been reasonably construed as 2010’s ‘golden generation’ – Khune and Tshabalala – remain, and as the two most senior representatives their joint 174 caps equate to 30.42% of the entire current squad’s senior international experience – yet have failed to recapture the unifying inspiration of a 1-1 opening draw with Mexico and opportunistic 2-1 disposal of a severely-weakened and ten-man French outfit seven years ago. Of a squad that was coached, in two instances between 2007 and 2010, by the Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira – in the final managerial position of a 43-year career that encompassed 20 prior World Cup matches with Kuwait, the UAE, Brazil and Saudi Arabia, including a victorious 1994 campaign with the nation of his birth – and relied upon the definitive national forces of Kaiser Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, however, much has since changed.
Despite the treble of consecutive South African Premier Division titles garnered by fellow Johannesburg outfit Supersport United in the era preceding the nation’s winter hosting of the globe’s elite talent, the production of thrice-group-stage-capped midfielders Tshabalala and Teko Modise, in addition to the supporting cast of Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Lucas Thwala, Khune and his goalkeeping injury replacement Moeneeb Josephs was, poignantly, creditable to the Chiefs and Pirates. Only one United player – future perpetually loaned-out Tottenham Hotspur defender Bongani Khumalo – earned Parreira’s selection in 2010, and only after Supersport manager Gavin Hunt’s departure in 2013 did the national team garner greater United representation; presently with five representatives in striker Grobler, midfielder Furman, defenders Morgan Gould and Clayton Daniels and goalkeeper ‘keeper Ronwen Williams, compared to the side Hunt – while equalling a Premier Division managerial record with his fourth title – led to 2016-17 glory in Bidvest Wits, who boast only a couple of national figures in defenders Thulani Hlatshwayo and Sifiso Hlanti.
Disfigured and fragmented from their 2010 vision, the nation, however, evidently harnesses none of the title-winning exploits of Hunt, nor Pitso Mosimane’s 2013-14 and 2015-16 champions, and 2016 CAF Champions League victors Mamelodi Sundowns – the seven-time, again Johannesburg-derived, domestic frontrunners. Rather, the SAFA establishment appears to exist more as a detriment to the domestic platform and a hindrance to managerial aptitudes including Mosimane – assistant manager in 2010, and charged with reenergising Bafana Bafana following Parreira’s departure, yet toppled two years later amidst a misinterpretation of qualifying rules for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations and seven consecutive draws. The team’s first European-descended South African coach since the mid-1990s AFCON-winning success of Clive Barker, Gordon Igesund – for whom 2014 World Cup qualification, at least at the second of three rounds, appeared an undaunting prospect when posed with a group containing Ethiopia, Botswana and the Central African Republic – fared little better, succumbing to an embarrassing and mildly calamitous 2-1 defeat in their final group match; a visit to Addis Ababa that featured a Bernard Parker own goal and later accusations of ineligibility on the part of one of Ethiopia’s players, only to be rejected by FIFA, and for Nigeria to defeat the North Africans in a play-off third round.
Ephraim ‘Shakes’ Mashaba, previously Bafana Bafana’s controversy-embroiled coach from 2002 to 2004, was elevated from a national under-17 position on the expiration of Igesund’s contract in June 2014, yet persevered with the divisive autocracy that beckoned his earlier demise, to a tenure of only a year’s further prolongation. Having refused to select stalwarts, including Radebe, McCarthy, Fortune, Hans Vonk and Mark Fish, of a 2002 World Cup campaign in which a failure to escape the group stage was only accountable to a deficiency in goals scored to Paraguay, in his former occupation of the role, Mashaba only further aggrieved the SAFA hierarchy and in December 2016 befell “gross misconduct”, ‘insubordination’ and a ‘violation of communication policies’ in the fallout of the aforementioned 2-1 victory against Senegal while engaging in a verbal altercation with SAFA chief executive Dennis Mumble and insulting the media; compounding group stage exits and qualification failure in consecutive AFCON campaigns and callous treatment of overseas-based players.
Employing the physical embodiment of journeyman status in Stuart Baxter – the Wolverhampton-born, Scottish-derived and self-proclaimed “European” who represented an Australian XI, despite lacking citizenship during his playing career with South Melbourne FC – in his second tenure after brief 2004-05 occupation, the institution has since entered a perilous state, with 2-1 defeats both home and away to Cape Verde jeopardising their campaign. Bookending these frustrations, 2-0 and 3-1 victories over Nigeria and Burkina Faso respectively, in both AFCON 2019 and World Cup 2018 qualifying, elevated national fervour, yet the deliverance of either ambition or near-resigned failure rests on Senegalese summits. Regardless, the nine playing destinations, fourteen managerial occupations and eleven constituent FIFA nations – ranging from Japan to Australia, Portugal to the USA, Sweden to Turkey and Norway to Finland – comprised by Baxter’s 44-year professional footballing career offer little assurance over the longevity or contingency of a South African establishment that, quite evidently, is able to achieve on the continental domestic stage.
Yet the plight of South African associations is far from solely attributable to a perceived sacking culture, arguably inevitable courtesy of the political instability and vitriol of African society. Examining the aptitude of 26 managerial tenures – albeit including seven interim roles – and 17 different individuals from eight distinct nations in their 25-year post-apartheid establishment, and thus averaging a managerial overhaul every 351 days, the SAFA fares reasonably well in comparison, from an equal era, to the top-ten-ranked nations in the African continent currently; a record superior to Nigeria (326 days) and Ghana (304), and not far short of Morocco (435), the Ivory Coast (also 435) and Burkina Faso (481), though distant of the continuity espoused in Tunisia (537), Egypt (also 537), Democratic Republic of the Congo (652) and Senegal (a mighty 913, in some cases superior to European stability).
Accusations of physiological disadvantage, considering the institutionalised concentration of traditionally middle-class, white sporting prowess into cricket and rugby union, bear little credibility, either, when likened to Gordon Strachan’s identification of the lack of physical height available in Scottish representative structures when competing with set-piece-reliant Slovenian, Slovakian and Lithuanian outfits. The issue is much more expansive and deep-rooted in respects of a reprehensible SAFA constitution. Fulfilment of Parreira’s post-retirement vision, laid out in official SAFA contracts, for the socio-economically polarised state has been far from evident in the subsequent seven years. Arguing that preoccupation with the evidently continued pursuit of sackings and appointments of either establishment-favoured or domestically-inspiring managers has engulfed the time and financial resources available to deliver visions of investment in grassroots regions of the sport – enabling the system to develop from the lowest stages, upwards – is a blatant admission of mislaid and distorted vision in the establishment. If unable to access the evident domestic ability of Johannesburg – the seat of all but two Premier Division season victories in the league’s 20-year history, with 1996-97’s Manning Rangers, of Durban, and 2001-02’s Santos, of Cape Town, the exceptions – Danny Jordaan’s devolved administration requires extensive rehabilitation in its ambition of operation. Proven corruption, and now accused rape, have been lodged against the president, yet no action has been taken to alleviate an institution of their tyrannical kingpin, thus proving the ultimate testament to the extent of corruption, or even the lack of alternative hope or vision, within the SAFA’s realms.
Yet it would require considerable cultural reform – far beyond the capabilities of any societal subsect as corrupt as South Africa’s directorial class – to deliver parity for those captivated by 2010’s majesty. Artificially regulated as it may have appeared to satisfied SAFA, CAF and FIFA officials at the time, considering the visionary, and lucrative, appointment of a former World Cup-winning manager, Sepp Blatter’s evidently corrupt deliverance on continental promises and the Swiss’ presidential security respectively, for those at my transfixed age in South Africa – engaged in the hubbub of global welcome – the tournament would have entirely redrafted conceptions of the sport. Previously, the pinnacle of South African football, and largely African football as a broader entity, had been to secure personally lucrative transfer to Italy, Germany, Spain and England, at the forefront of global competition, yet after this competition, representing your nation – as Bafana Bafana had proven against Mexico and France, Ghana had in each match prior to unfair dismissal and both Algeria and the Ivory Coast had while engaging in close competition with England, Portugal and Brazil – was redefined as a platform of vast glory and unconquerable pride. Honouring the flag that raised you, and the salvation sport earned you potentially from the townships disadvantaged forefathers had no reasonable ambition of escaping, was redrawn in the image of an ultimate fulfilment of talent.
Mamoledi Sundowns pair Motjeka Madisha and Percy Tau, a mobile defender and baby-faced striker by trade who have recently broken into the squad, were aged 15 and 16, respectively, at the time. Centre-forward Phakamani Mahlambi, who lately earned himself a move to continentally imperious Al-Ahly, of Egypt, was a mere 12 years old, while of his fellow members of the 2016 under-23 Olympic Games squad, only two players – the over-aged Khune and highly-rated captain Keagan Dolly – were born prior to June 1993, and thus were over 16 at the time of the tournament. Centre-back Rivaldo Coetzee, having only recently turned 21, already has 24 senior caps to his name, and only withdrew from a move to Celtic this summer due to an underlying injury inflicted to his right foot. This is the legacy generation, who, arguably more so than those five years younger, required the national spirit of that tournament to convince them of the financial sustainability, and potential moral profitability, of their career choice. To capture talents at this age is fundamental to any success, and yet after achieving what could be construed, if in ethical practice, as the harder aspect of this legacy – actually convincing FIFA delegates of the South Africa 2010 vision – SAFA have contrived to befall the expense of that summer. The precedent set by Jordaan’s perceivably impervious rule, the chaos of senior management, the failure to even qualify for major tournaments and the lack of national contingency has caused systemic disillusionment with what ephemerally promised to be a coherent and upwardly mobile association. National psychology has since altered almost incomparably in only seven malaise-encased years, and will continue to do so in the wake of upcoming failures against Senegal. To have reached a stage where such little hope exists for two decisive World Cup qualifiers, is at the very least disheartening, considering the ambition Mandela and Parreira, amongst others, bought into. At the best of times, as American scholar Warren Bennis captured, ‘leadership is the ability to translate vision into reality’, yet when mired in corrupt, criminal and amoral hierarchical autocracy, the reality is sombre. Further condemning of the state of the scene, reformist alternative is bereft. Such is the desensitised circumstance, disappointingly. Here lays legacy, 2004-2010, unfulfilled, but not forgotten.
Author - Will Hugall
Now a BA Journalism student at Nottingham Trent University, I divide my time between my base in Radford and back home in East Sussex while watching as much football as I can!