Am I the only one who has noted a sense of resignation among football fans following the Flames’ latest loss in Durban, South Africa last Saturday? The reaction to that loss lacked the usual hysterics that have greeted every defeat inflicted on our national football team. Unless I missed it, the emphatic 3-1 margin at the hands of a not-so-impressive Bafana Bafana passed without incident.
That may mean one of several possible things. It may mean that realism is slowly creeping in and fans are starting to accept that some of the expectations in the past have been inordinate given the real state of our national team. It may also mean that fans have, all of a sudden become indifferent to the fate of their national team and are more concerned with club football with the league moving into the home stretch.
Another possibility is that the fans were actually relieved that it was only 3-1 because they were expecting an even heavier loss given the rating of the opponents. Whatever the reason it must be a welcome respite for coach Kinnah Phiri and his team. The coach was spared the familiar calls for his sacking with all the questions about his credentials and suitability for the big job. He can now quietly go about his job.
As discussed last week, the likely outcome from last week’s loss is a further slide on the Fifa world rankings and, very likely, more indifference within the corridors of power. We continue to go backwards in our sports development while everybody around us is moving forward. We have just come from the Zone VI Games where, despite winning 10 more medals than last time, we have stayed on 10th position among 12 participating nations.
What that tells us is that whatever strides we are making in developing sports are not enough. As a nation closer to the bottom of the pile we needed to put in much more effort than those that are better than us otherwise we shall continue to get frustrated that we are failing to close the gap with those above us. Of course, we can choose to take the easy and lazy option of expressing satisfaction over our modest gains.
I know no-one wants to appear to be doing nothing or little and our sports authorities would want to justify their existence by pointing at the ‘improvement’ as seen from the increased number of disciplines that went to Zambia and number of medals won but where that does not lead to improvements on where we stand on the overall medals table, it means others have made even greater improvements.
Surely, we do not want to remain 10th forever, do we? What it means is that we need to do much more because it is clear that what we have been doing so far is not good enough to take us higher that table. To achieve that, various things have to change and change quickly. Business as usual will not do it and if those in sports administration do not know how to do what it takes, they have no business being where they are.
Meanwhile, we are at the midway point of the English Premier League season and the log table is slowly taking shape. Manchester United have seized the initiative but I still expect some challenge, especially from Rafael Benitez’s Chelsea, depending on what happens when the transfer window opens on Wednesday.