Magazine article New African

What's Next for South Africa? as the Euphoria of Staging a Successful World Cup Dies Down, South Africa Must Confront the Tough Challenge of Sustaining a Lasting Legacy That Will Justify the Billions of Dollars It Spent on Hosting the World, Says Piers Edwards

Magazine article New African

What's Next for South Africa? as the Euphoria of Staging a Successful World Cup Dies Down, South Africa Must Confront the Tough Challenge of Sustaining a Lasting Legacy That Will Justify the Billions of Dollars It Spent on Hosting the World, Says Piers Edwards

Article excerpt

Of all the thoughts stirred by the first World Cup on African soil, the one that leaps our is what has South Africa--having hosted the planet's best players and teams--learned from hosting the 2010 finals and how will this benefit the national team's future.

It's a question even Jacob Zuma is pondering, as the South African President comments: "How do we utilise the stadiums? How do we raise the level of football itself? How do we maintain the momentum? That's what we are discussing and we have plans."

Fans of the national team, who have watched, with great pain, the decline of their national team, hope these plans produce concrete results, in contrast to the empty promises of yesteryear.

A quick recap: After re-entering international football in 1992, following a three-decade FIFA ban for apartheid, South Africa flew out of the blocks, winning the 1996 Nations Cup on home soil before finishing runners-up in 1998. Bafana-Bafana also travelled to their first World Cup in that year and an appearance at the 2002 finals duly followed. After that, the well of success began to dry up. Since reaching the Nations Cup quarter-finals in 2002, South Africa has never progressed past the first round--failing, embarrassingly, to make Angola 2010.

"We won the Nations Cup in 1996 because we had systems to develop players," says Billy Cooper, a long-standing South African football reporter. "After 1996, we basically did no development and lost the plot. Now we have to rebuild."

The World Cup has been similarly affected because South Africa hasn't qualified for that since 2002, only competing this time as hosts.

Alongside the need to sustain the pan-racial interest in football shown during the World Cup, the desire for development is the most common theme among those closely associated with South African football. For many years, the South African Football Association (SAFA) has been called on to implement a sophisticated youth policy. But the pleas have largely fallen on deaf ears; hence the dearth of top-class players in the country, as the World Cap cruelly exposed.

"I think our officials have finally realised there is a big need to invest in developmental structures at a grassroots level," says Shaun Bartlett, Bafana Bafana's second-highest scorer. "We have so much talent in South Africa--it's just a matter of finding it.

"Qualifying for the 2012 Nations Cup is our priority but we're also eyeing the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, so long term we must benefit from the structures put in place. SAFA will receive substantial cash from hosting the World Cup and the whole country is keeping an eye on that, wanting to ensure the funding goes to the right places."

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The sum in question is a once-in-a-lifetime boost for SAFA, whose president Kirsten Nematandani estimates that $150m of it will accrue to the association. So, how will they use the money?

"Since we already have sponsors for the national team, the bulk of that cash must be invested in the ground," he says. "I don't believe you can grow unless you move down to a level where kids will have the basics, so 80-90% of the profits will focus on grassroots [development]. The World Cup means South African football will never be the same again."

In contrast to the years of inactivity on this front, action has begun to take place. This May, the FIFA-backed Grassroots Football programme was launched, giving children aged 6-12 their first formal training and, equally importantly, enabling coaches to identify and nurture talent from a young age. …

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