Home Podcast State of South African Football on the International Stage

State of South African Football on the International Stage

by Thaabit Kamaar
Photo by [Planet Football]


It has been over ten years since South Africa hosted and competed in the FIFA World Cup. Since then, Bafana Bafana has failed to qualify for the tournament on three occasions, with Qatar being the latest.

As the world sets its sights on the tournament in the Middle East, Mark Fish fondly remembers his participation in the 1998 World Cup in France.

“We won the AFCON, the Champions League with Orlando Pirates and then we went on to qualify for the World Cup. It was a unique step for South African Football … It was a phenomenal experience. Whatever happened at the world cup, it doesn’t matter, but we were there, we put ourselves on the world map [and] that we were a country to be reckoned with”.

The failure to qualify for such a prestigious event in recent years, is attributable to the poor quality of football in South Africa.

Although domestic teams in the PSL have achieved relative success in national and international club competitions, Fish states the country is failing to consistently match the standard of football played on the African continent and the world.

As such, the level of inconsistency has negatively contributed to the current state of the national team.


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Club Football vs International Football

Fish said, South African football is at a place where no one is willing to progress it on the international stage.

At the moment, club football is much more popular and relevant to players and supporters than Bafana Bafana is, which in his day was the other way round.

In Fish’s opinion, SAFA, club owners and former players are not making enough effort to change this perception of the national team.

“We as a football-loving country, don’t do enough to rectify and change the things that need to [change] … Players need to realise that when you play for your country it is so different than when you play for your club. Your club will never be bigger than your country”.

SAFA’s Responsibility to the Players

South African players are hesitant to play for the national team because they are afraid of injury, which would negatively impact their livelihoods with their football clubs.

In contrast to their clubs, players are not guaranteed the same financial compensation or security for their physical well-being when they are called to represent the country.

However, Fish said, SAFA is more significant than any football club in South Africa. If players have concerns, SAFA therefore has a responsibility to address them.

“As a football-loving Federation, [SAFA] needs to change and understand they are bigger than any club. But if you’re bigger than any club, make sure you are taking care of players, make sure that you don’t have to go into a camp and argue about money … And make sure you are doing what is right for people”.

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