Safa bosses are guardians of their own pockets, not football
At that point the local leagues were amalgamated to form a Super League and the best clubs were pitted against one another.
I was privileged enough to have been a player at this time and was able to see first-hand the advantages of playing against the best players of the time across all spectrums. It was a strength-versus-strength situation.
However, not too long after that, Safa decided to break up the provinces into smaller regions and local football associations and, in so doing, the strength-versus-strength situation was removed. All the local leagues became diluted with only a small handful of decent clubs in each area.
Most likely the thought process was to try to limit the travelling distances for clubs to a minimum and, by having more areas and regions, Safa was creating more “jobs” for more people across a wider area to try keep as many people happy as possible.
In my view no real thought was given to what effect this would have on football in general in years to come. Safa had no true leadership with vision then and the same can be said today.
It is an organisation that has been wracked by infighting and corruption - virtually since its inception. This has just become worse with every passing year and is manifesting itself very clearly in the recent past by the fact that, within Safa itself, there are parallel structures at national level and at regional level.
In KwaZulu-Natal this situation has been prevalent for the past three years or so and it is a disgraceful reflection on Safa that there appears to be no end to this football impasse.
According to Safa’s constitution, it is supposed to be the guardian of football in South Africa, but it is plain to all outsiders that all executive Safa members are the guardians of their own future and their own back pockets. They do not care much about what is good for football and for the young boys and girls that grow up with the burning ambition of achieving their dreams.
If Safa was truly interested in developing football and footballers, then its executive would firstly get their own house in order and put proper leaders in place that have the game truly at heart and appoint competent people to fulfil important roles.
In the early 1990’s the ruling party and the municipalities decided that they would take away long-term leases from all sporting bodies across the country. One does not really know what the true reasoning behind this was at the time. Was it a racist decision?
Whatever the reason, many once-flourishing sports fields have over these years become derelict and unused havens for criminals and homeless people. These sports fields have just been neglected, forgotten and left to rot.
By denying long-term leases to sportspeople and to football clubs, in one fell swoop, the heart and the foundation was ripped out of the game.
Before the 1990’s there were strong clubs in virtually all areas across KwaZulu-Natal. They were clubs - in the true sense of the word - in that they had junior structures from the youngest to the most senior players at one venue. There was more loyalty among players to clubs, because youngsters would aspire to play for their own club’s senior team.
The local communities would get more involved in supporting their local club, because it was a central meeting point for people from the same area. This inspired both unity and financial support from sponsors and the clubs created identities and history for themselves.
However, given that there are no long-term leases to football clubs, there has been a proliferation of teams that are run by one-man-bands all over the show. In many cases you will have up to four or five teams within a few kilometres of one another - with most of them sharing the same grounds.
In a strength-versus-strength situation can you imagine the strength of a community if those clubs all joined together to form one strong solid club?
Multiply this scenario across the country and automatically, after a few years, you will see good players developing who will benefit the national team.
It is not rocket science. All it will take is the will to do things properly and for the right reasons, and South Africa can take its rightful place among the world’s top football countries instead of stumbling from one year to the next without any idea of where we are going as a football nation.
* Coppola is a former professional footballer, a coach and an administrator.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.