Why are the South African clubs failing to conquer Africa?
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has released the draw for the 2010 edition of the biggest club tournament in the continent – the MTN CAF Champions League. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about- it’s the equivalent of the UEFA Champions League – with all the top clubs battling each other for that impressive title of being the best team in Africa. It’s going be a long and bumpy road for the club that will eventually lift the prestigious trophy and with it a cheque for US$1 million.
Three rounds of preliminary knockout matches (home and away) will see the teams reduced to eight of the best – those eight teams will then be split into two groups of 4 – and that’s when the real fun begins. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves here – let’s take a look at the course that the South African representatives, Supersport United and Orlando Pirates, have to negotiate before they can even start dreaming about the top 8.
1st Round :
Mbabane Swallows (SWZ) v SuperSport Utd (RSA)
2nd Round :
Swallows or SuperSport v Mitsamiouli or Ferroviario
3rd Round :
Swallows/SuperSport/Mitsamiouli/Ferroviario vs Vital’O/Tiko/Heartland
Gaborone Utd (BOT) v Orlando Pirates (RSA)
Passe or Starlight v Gaborone or Pirates
Simba/Lupopo/Dynamos vs Passe/Starlight/Gaborone/Pirates
As you can see – there are many if’s and maybe’s – and judging by the record that South African teams have in the Champions League – an exit in one of these preliminary rounds would probably not shock the SA population into depression. To say the South Africans’ record in this tournament is less than pretty would be like calling Tiger Woods a two-timer (Ok I just had to ) – in other words, an understatement of the year.
The trophy has only been within our borders ONCE since inception – brought in by a brave Orlando Pirates team in 1995. Sundowns raised hopes in 2001 but unfortunately they fell victim to the Red Devils of Egypt, Al Ahly, in the final hurdle – sigh.
It would be unfair to judge the South Africans teams based on achievements by clubs that have been involved in the competition since the 60′s – when we were excluded from Fifa/CAF due to political reasons – but producing ONE African Champion since readmission to Fifa/CAF in 1992 is still a dismal record for a country that claims to be a a football mad nation.
Why do we struggle?
Don’t shoot the messenger but we all know the reasons / excuses that are thrown around by RSA teams following their disappointing CAF campaigns – the validity of the excuses ,however, is subject to criticism.
The first reason, which I think is valid – is the timing of the tournament. The CAF CL is played between February and November – in line with the domestic competitions in Africa – except off course South Africa. Our league is aligned with European leagues – and each year we hope that our overplayed or undercooked players will match up to players who are in a superior physical condition. In the words of one Dr. Phil – how is that working out for us?
The rest of the excuses range between anything from “our players’ smaller statue” , to “challenging conditions faced while traveling” and all the way to “the decreasing ozone layer” – but like I said – some of them are just plain thumb-sucked excuses.
So, before we judge Bafana Bafana –the question is – why are the South African clubs failing to conquer Africa?