The talk of Vision 2022 has returned to the top of most Mzansi diski discussion once again, as national under 23 coach, Owen Da Gama, announced his 18 man plus stand-by list of players to represent South Africa in the 26th male edition of the football spectacle part of the Olympic Games, to be held in Rio. It seems to have been eons since we’ve had a national team announcement, at any level, that hasn’t failed to produce great unrest amongst most football following South Africans regarding the personnel selected. The trend seems to have progressed, as two Kaizer Chiefs players have been named as the 2 over-age players chosen in the rather inexperienced squad; one that could have used the luxury of another more seasoned campaigner further up field to ease the pressure of carrying the offensive unit, a unit comprising of a few talented youngsters that haven’t played much football at the elite level. I was fortunate enough to come across a list of the 19 candidates nominated on the overage shortlist by Owen Da Gama, a list exclusively sourced by The Times and circulated on Social Media, seeing players like Solomon Mathe, Surprise Moriri, Tlou Segolela, Asavela Mbekile and Ndumiso Mabena on the list, players who wouldn’t not have been much use within the current circumstances, was a slap in the face, as it seems as though our national teams are still being treated like a friends & clients of friends club. Players like Thabo Matlaba, Hlompho Kekana, Thabo Rakhale, Prince Nxumalo & Moeketsi Sekola, who were all also on the list, would have added a different quality to the squad, and given them a different outlook, particularly regarding how they setup their offensive game. Andile Jali and Lebogang Phiri are said to have had their call-ups rejected by their respective club sides, Jali was to serve as the 3rd overage player, while Phiri would have been a lock to start in one of the two double-pivot slots, in what cloud have been his international level breakthrough for South Africa.
Potential is a great commodity in modern sports, where we often value high potential ceiling prospects over good readymade talents, simply because, a young talent with the perceived scope for growth is seen as an asset that has the potential to yield greater rewards. The process behind negating the option of calling up a 3rd overage player for the tournament has been explained by a desire to afford another u/23 player with the opportunity to make the nation proud, and build upon that great platform to catapult their career to the next level. One cannot disagree with that notion, but with the squad already consisting of a few players that could be said to have been “afforded a platform to make the nation proud”, which is more like a gift to some who have largely been unseen & are unproven on the professional level, one cannot help but feel as if, yet again, we let our politics get in the way of us assembling the best possible side, which is a pity as this is such a pivotal tournament in the success of said Vision 2022.
The leaders tasked with guiding the beautiful game in our beloved South Africa have made little attempt to fully clarify what it is their Vision 2022 will achieve in the short, mid and long terms; yet whenever the topic is conveniently brought up for discussion, the nation just happens to be on the cusp of a youth international tournament that never appears to be fully logistically prepared for by those in charge. The appointment of Neil Tovey as Technical Director of SAFA was intended to have put an end to an era where clubs are at odds with the national team over player availability, for whatever reason, we often see players from the same local clubs get preferential treatment when it comes to national call-ups, and that is something that was intended to stop as we moved towards this Vision 2022, that promotes youth development and inclusion of players from across the board. The one truly commendable facet of the side is the diversity of where they selected players were developed or nurtured into professionals; of the 18 man squad, 8 were groomed in Gauteng, with a much improved 5 in Cape Town, 2 from the North-West and one each from, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
South Africa is a nation blessed with great sporting talent in abundance, for whatever reason, we have failed to continually translate our great gifts into elite level players, that elevate the standard of our national teams, and give our loving fan base something to truly be proud of. Aside from the 1996 African Cup of Nations triumph, South African football has barely made a mark on the field in the sport, and that is very disappointing when you consider the wealth of talent and resources we are fortunate enough to have at our disposal. The 18 men selected will do very well to fully represent the splendour and richness of South African football, in a country that embraces good attacking football much like we do, one can only pray that our current group of u/23’s can go further than the Class of 2000, and win enough points to secure passage out of a group that contains the host nation, in the 26th edition of football at the Olympic games. South Africa will be hoping to finish in the top 2 of Group A, and book a quarter-final battle with Colombia, Japan, Nigeria or Sweden, who will all be vying for the two available qualifying slots in group B.
South Africa Under-23 Olympic Squad (Rio 2016)
|Itumeleng Isaac Khune||Kaizer Chiefs FC, RSA||June 20th, 1987 (29)||1, 81m||Right|
|Jody Jason February||Ajax Cape Town FC, RSA||May 12th, 1996 (20)||1, 82m||Right|
|Kwandakwensizwa Ishmael Mngonyama||Mamelodi Sundowns FC, RSA||RB/CB/LB||September 25th, 1993 (22)||1, 80m||Right|
|Abbubaker Mobara||Orlando Pirates FC, RSA||RB/CB/DM||February 18th, 1994 (22)||1, 79m||Right|
|Repo Tercious Malepe||Orlando Pirates FC, RSA||CB||February 18th, 1997 (19)||Right|
|Mulomowandau Erick Mathoho||Kaizer Chiefs FC, RSA||CB||March 1st, 1990 (26)||1, 90m||Right|
|Rivaldo Roberto Genino Coetzee||Ajax Cape Town FC, RSA||CB||October 16th, 1996 (19)||1, 79m||Right|
|Tebogo Moerane||BidVest Wits FC, RSA||LB||April 7th, 1995 (21)||1, 65m||Left|
|Mothobi Mvala||Highlands Park FC, RSA||DM||June 14th, 1994 (22)||1, 82m||Right|
|Phumlani Nkosinathi Ntshangase||BidVest Wits FC, RSA||CB/DM/DLP||December 24th, 1994 (21)||1, 65m||Right|
|Gift Mohlatlego Motupa||Orlando Pirates FC, RSA||AM/AF/CF||September 23rd, 1994 (21)||1, 80m||Right|
|Deolin Quade Mekoa||Maritzburg United FC, RSA||DLP/AM/AP (L/R/C)||August 10th, 1993 (22)||1, 60m||Right|
|Menzi Alson Masuku||Orlando Pirates FC, RSA||AM/AP(L/R/C)||April 15th, 1993 (23)||1, 72m||Right|
|Keagan Larenzo Dolly||Mamelodi Sundowns FC, RSA||AM/AP(L/R/C)||January 22nd, 1993 (23)||1, 70m||Either|
|Aubrey Maphosa Modiba||Cape Town City FC, RSA||LB/AM/AP(L/R)||July 22nd 1995 (20)||1, 60m||Right|
|Tashreeq Morris||Ajax Cape Town FC, RSA||May 13th, 1994 (22)||1, 84m||Right|
|Lebohang Mothiba||Lille OSC, FRA||January 28th, 1996 (20)||Right|
|Tyroane Joe Sandows||Grêmio FBPA, BRA||February 12th, 1995 (21)||1, 70m||Right|
|Nkosingiphile Gumede||Golden Arrows FC, RSA||GK||December 1st, 1993 (22)||1, 76m||Right|
|Thapelo James Morena||Bloemfontein Celtic FC, RSA||RB/AP/AM/AF (R/L/C)||August 6th, 1993 (22)||1, 70m||Right|
|Andile Fikozolo||SuperSport United FC, RSA||AP/AM/AF (L/R/C)||February 18th, 1997 (19)||1, 69m||Right|
|Thabiso Simon Kutumela||Orlando Pirates FC, RSA||AP/AF/CF (L/R/C)||July 3rd, 1993 (23)||Right|
South Africa Under-23 Olympic Games Fixtures
Group Fixture 1
Brazil vs South Africa
Date: Thursday August 4th, 2016; 16H00 | 21H00 CAT
Venue: Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha, Brasília; Brazil
Group Fixture 2
Denmark vs South Africa
Date: Sunday August 7th, 2016; 19H00 | Monday August 8th, 2016 02H00 (CAT)
Venue: Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha, Brasília; Brazil
Group Fixture 3
South Africa vs Iraq
Date: Wednesday August 10th, 2016; 22H00 | Thursday August 11th, 2016 03H00 (CAT)
Venue: Arena Corinthians, São Paulo; Brazil
The Grandstand View
Owen Da Gama is a man caught in a very precarious situation; his team overcame the odds to qualify for the Olympic Games, without anything near the level of support one needs to regularly pull off such a majestic feat, the pressure will now be on him to ensure that the newfound expectations of a demanding public are met, starting with three respectable performances being the bare minimum. One cannot begin to understand how ODG is feeling, the pressure of overseeing a successful campaign will be new to him in this position, as there was little pressure and expectation on the side during the earlier rounds of qualifying; the pressure seemed to intensify as the dream became more and more of a reality, and now the dreamers have heaped expectations on the man affectionately known as Rubber Doll to deliver the stuff of legends.
The comparison of the Class of 2000 and the current crop of players would be unfair for many a reason, yet the latent fact is that this selection looks a tad bit weaker on paper, which is unfortunate, when one regards the progress we expect ourselves to have made as a nation and a fraternity after 16 years and 3 Olympic cycles worth of experience, planning and implementation. South African football cannot grow as it should, when we are still having to deal with favouritism of certain club’s and agent’s players, club vs country tug-of-war’s that are intentionally going unmediated, and a general lack of proactive thinking, planning, implementation & ingenious corrective measures when it comes to handling the logistical side of our national teams.
One can only wonder how long our talents will continue to mask the shambles that is our football fraternity. The 2016 Rio Olympic Games may be a wakeup call for South African football administrators in more ways than one. If we can achieve any ounce of measurable success with a team that if far from our best composition of u/23 players, the powers that be will be left knowing that we could have achieved even more with proper planning and implementation. Lord forbid we become the whipping boys of a group almost as open as our 2000 one, a group that comprised of Brazil, Japan & Slovakia, South African football would have to do a lot of much needed soul searching to find solutions to our deeper lying problems; our team should, at the very least, not be losing to teams like Denmark & Iraq at any level, and these tests will be a gauge of where we truly stand in terms of progressing towards any success regarding Vision 2022.