Last weekend marked the beginning of the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa, which is the dress rehearsal of next year’s World Cup. Even though some little logistics have to be put in place before the major showpiece next year, in general everything seems to be going well in and outside the field of play.
Nevertheless, the problem that has been haunting the southern African region seems to be showing at the tournament.
It appears as if lack of scoring instincts by southern African teams will take ages to be righted.
So far, there is only one representative from the southern African region at the FIFA Confederations tournament and that only by virtue of being the hosts.
The first and last time any southern African team was present was in 1997 when South Africa also represented the region.
By then, they were the African champions.
In the opening game against the troubled and war torn Iraq, South Africa were pathetic in front of goal and it showed that experience cannot be bought but is a process of time.
Although they managed to get two goals against New Zealand in their second game, it was still far from convincing.
It has since proved that, without doubt, Benny McCarthy is still highly needed in the South African squad.
It took many years for him to be a polished product as he is now. Current reliable strikers like Bernard Parker, Thembinkosi Fanteni and Katlego Mashego still have a long way to go and next year’s World Cup might prove to be the highest stage for them.
Mashego is still locally based while Fanteni and Parker are in the lowest leagues in Europe.
McCarthy, on the other hand, is in one of the highest leagues around the world, which is the English Premier League.
He started by going to Holland, Spain and then the English Premier League.
Parker has just returned from Serbia where he played for Red Star Belgrade. Just before he could rise to the occasion, the team went into financial straits and he had to come back.
With the 2010 World Cup looming, the readiness of the strikers lies in doubt.
Fanteni is in Israel which, by world standards, is not a soccer power of any note.
Southern Africa’s agonising scoring problems can also be witnessed in the qualifying matches for both the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations and the World Cup.
There are only three representatives, which are Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia.
Of the two games they played in group B, Mozambique’s Black Mambas have not found the back of the net and the same with Malawi in group E.
Zambia is the only country to have managed two goals in group C. There is not even a guarantee that any of the southern African countries will make it to the World Cup showpiece.
South Africa, who are hosting the 2010 World Cup, failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Mozambican sports journalist, Pedro Duminiquez told Sunday Standard that southern Africa has a long history of lack of adequate strikers and a lot still needs to be done. He said there seems to be no systematic way of nurturing the talent of the strikers as is the case in other parts of Africa and in Europe.
“In our country, I would say the best striker I have witnessed is Tico Tico Bucuane. Since he is nearing the end of his career, nobody is taking over from him and there is a huge void. In Zambia, there used to be Kalusha Bwalwa and since he left there has also been an outcry. Even in South Africa there used to be fewer good strikers, but since retiring there has been a problem. Look at other African countries like Cameroon and Ivory Coast, you replace a hard rock with another hard one,” he said.
Duminiquez also added that there are no shortcuts in football and southern African countries should overhaul their development systems to produce quality players.