22 February 2007
South Africa is pulling out all the stops to ensure that it succeeds in 2010 – both as hosts of the Football World Cup and as one of the participants.
The country has turned to one of the world’s most respected coaches, Carlos Alberto Parreira, to revive a national team that has disappointed since they were crowned African champions just over a decade ago.
Shortly before taking up his post as coach of Bafana Bafana, Parreira told Fifa.com that South African soccer had “all gone downhill over the last seven or eight years … It’s high time the tide turned again.”
This, he said, would involve “planning, organising and team building.”
The 63-year-old Brazilian – he turns 64 on 27 February – has set out a number of objectives for his tenure as South Africa’s coach, the first of which is to qualify for the 2008 African Cup of Nations in Ghana.
The way he plans to do that is slowly, with Bafana Bafana incorporating a style that caters to the strength of the players.
To do this, says Parreira, he needs to learn about the tradition, the style and the culture of South African football. A formation that suits the players needs to be employed, and then a blending of his ideas with those of the players needs to take place.
Two ideas he has already communicated about the national team are, firstly, that he views ball possession as one of the side’s strengths and aims to employ that in their play.
Secondly, he says, while the team is technically sound, goal scoring is an area of concern, with Bafana Bafana having been less than impressive in front of goal in recent times.
With that in mind, Parreira may be hoping that Benni McCarthy will reverse his decision to retire from international football.
The Blackburn Rovers’ striker has been in impressive form in the English Premier League and previously, with Porto, he showed himself to be a top class performer on the international stage, helping the Portuguese club win both the Uefa Champions League and the Uefa Cup.
Of course, the big prize on the horizon is the 2010 World Cup which South Africa, as hosts of the tournament, will be contesting. Parreira’s aim is to get the team through to the second round of the competition because, from there, anything is possible.
On the way to achieving this, Parreira wants Bafana to win the African Cup of Nations in Angola in 2010, as this would give the team momentum going into the World Cup – and push home interest in the event to a peak.
Many South African football fans recall the heady days of 1996, when an inspired Bafana Bafana team won the African Nations Cup on home soil. That was big – but very small compared to the World Cup.
Parreira knows well that the South African public and SA Football Association (Safa) are tough taskmasters; they want results and they want them quickly.
While Safa has denied this, the national body’s record is littered with coaches whose contracts ended before their time.
However, with R1.8-million a month invested in Parreira, he will surely be afforded a better opportunity than those who went before him to mould the national side into winners.
Lack of structures
Speaking to Fifa.com, Parreira lamented the lack of under-16, under-18 and under-20 leagues in the country, pointing out that players who are 19 in 2007 would be 23 years of age in 2010, which would be ideal for the World Cup.
However, one of his suggestions has been acted upon by Safa, with the Premier Soccer League (PSL) recently announcing the establishment of a reserve league involving eight Gauteng-based teams, namely Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns, Orlando Pirates, Moroka Swallows, BidVest Wits, Jomo Cosmos, SuperSport United, and Benoni United.
Parreira, though, wants more, believing that a strong administration is crucial to South Africa’s success on the soccer fields of the world. Administration is certainly an area of South African football that has had to endure more than its fair share of criticism in years past.
‘My office is the football field’
While Parreira wants a first-class administration in place, he views his role as being one away from the office. “My office is the football field,” he says.
The well-travelled Parreira got his first break into coaching in Africa when he took charge of Ghana in 1967, leading them to the African Cup of Nations final the following year.
Since that time he has led Brazil, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia at the World Cup, including coaching Brazil to its first World Cup title in 24 years when the South American giants won the title in the US in 1994.
A home team at the World Cup
South Africa will be the fifth team he leads at world football’s showpiece event. However, it will be the first time he is in charge of a team playing in the World Cup on home soil.
Though himself an artist of some ability – he hosted exhibitions in Rio de Janeiro in 1999 and in Sao Paulo in 2002 – Parreira has indicated that his coaching is geared towards winning, with style being a less important factor. “We will be judged by the results, not the work,” he said.
Going into the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Parreira famously said: “History remembers champions, not good football.”
South African fans would welcome a bit of either.