As the European football leagues wound up their 2009/10 season recently, events took a tragic turn in the Turkish capital of Istanbul, when hundreds of Fenerbahçe supporters poured onto the pitch after the final whistle was blown to briefly celebrate their team's 18th league title.
The supporters were not alone, as some players also thought the final whistle declared Fenerbahçe the champion, thanks to an incorrect announcement made at the stadium. With two minutes to go in the match, the man responsible for the sound system in the stadium announced that Besiktas had leveled the score against rivals Bursa, meaning that Fenerbahçe had effectively become champions. The news reached some of the players, who decreased the tempo of the game in the belief that their 1-1 score line would be enough to bring the trophy home.
But with fans and players celebrating the championship on the pitch, the real score of their opponents' game, which was 2-1, was announced, causing fury among Fenerbahçe supporters. In their despair, Fenerbahce supporters went on the rampage, ripping up seats and throwing them onto the field while others lit fires in the stands, causing an excess of 10million Euro damage to the stadium. And, according to Germany's BILD, the stadium announcer had to endure a beating from club president Aziz Yildirim.
Brings out the very worst
This episode illustrates that at times football brings out the very worst in spectators and participants alike, and that the role football holds in modern society needs to be carefully managed in order to leverage the beautiful game's potential for generating role models and fostering social cohesion rather than inciting partisan division.
In an exclusive interview held earlier this week, SAFA president Kirsten Nematandani revealed his vision for the future of South African football. Nematandani, who served SAFA in the Vhembe region of Limpopo for almost 13 years and who was recently elected SAFA president, believes that grassroots development is key to achieving his vision of making South Africa the best side in Africa - and at the same time establishing a culture of responsibility and accountability at all levels of South African football.
Launching the Grassroots Football Programme in Pretoria, Nematandani stated that "our commitment is to see a total revolution of football in the country, and the start of this process is through grassroots football." A key component of the programme is life skills orientation, both for children and their parents, and to promote a code of conduct that is aimed at fostering a sense of social responsibility and community empowerment.
Nematandani, who is a great believer in the Law of Attraction, has a clear goal line for achieving his vision. Referring the France's world cup success in 1998, when French coach Aime Jacquet pinned the secret of his winning squad down to 10 years of national grassroots development, the SAFA president is expecting the SA equivalent to reap similar successes for the Under-17 and Under-20 teams within the next 5-7 years, and to propel Bafana Bafana into the Global Top 10 by 2022, to be considered as serious a contender for the world's biggest title by 2026 as the top flights of Brazil and Spain are today.
Vision back by recent success
Nematandani's vision is backed by the recent success run of FC Barcelona, who - contrary to their arch Rivals Real Madrid's policy of buying up the best talent available and assembling a squad of galacticos - have invested a decade of nurturing young talent in their famous youth development academy, the cantera.
Following Barca's second successive league title win, Barcelona's former coach Johan Cruyff praised the club's philosophy of raising home-grown players to compete in the first team and believes the "commitment to players from home is fundamental" to the club's recent successes. Said the club legend: "Barca's philosophy, the work of the cantera, and the value of the coaches that count on the youth system, is what explains the leap in quality in the club's last few years."
Pointing out that Barcelona have seen two coaches in the past seven years, while Madrid have gone through nine, Cruyff praised the president's ability to develop a consistent atmosphere where development is able to thrive.
Equally important, Nematandani believes that players have to enrol in life skills programmes, with education forming the cornerstone of their personal development. Stressing the need for developing role models that can transfer their football skills into the arena of youth development, Nematandani believes it is the level of determination and commitment that brings out the best in SA footballers.
"South Africa's struggle and hope"
Not long ago, it was Madiba who called former Bafana legends Lucas Radebe and Mark Fish "symbols of South Africa's struggle and hope, of a willingness to tackle every obstacle in pursuit of a shared ideal. They both fought for their chance and, given it, they rose to the challenge. In this they personify the spirit of our country. These men are the true sons of South Africa. They, and their fellow sportsmen and -women, carry many of the hopes and dreams of our nation."
[1 Jun 2010 12:19]
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