12 December 2008
Santos and Ajax Cape Town have once more demonstrated the ongoing power shift in South African club football.
By defeating Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs (2-1) and Orlando Pirates (1-0) respectively in their latest league encounters, the Cape-based sides are continuing to level the playing fields and demonstrate that tradition and mass appeal can be overcome.
That’s good for the local game in the build-up to next year’s Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup. Certainly, the standard of the Premier Soccer League is a good indicator of how the game is developing with both these tournaments now looming large.
On the national football front, there’s also plenty to be optimistic about. After a string of indifferent results (and the loss of yet another national coach), Joel Santana and his new-look Bafana squad are showing signs of real promise.
They were desperately unlucky to lose to Nigeria in their final qualifying match for the African Cup of Nations. Since then, they have secured four friendly victories against Cameroon, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea and Malawi.
It’s early days, of course, Santana but believes his squad will have what it takes to make a serious challenge at next year’s “Festival of Champions”.
Time and again, Fifa has reminded us that the performance of the local side is pivotal to the success of a World Cup, as demonstrated by France (winners in 1998), South Korea (co-hosts and semi-finalists in 2002) and unfancied Germany, who also made it to the semi-finals two years ago.
If Bafana are in the process of starting a late charge for 2010, much will depend on the state of the domestic game and the national squad’s performance at the Confederations Cup; but there are signs that things are pointing in the right direction.
Urquhart is a former Fifa World Cup media officer and the current editor of Project 2010