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Was ex-Orlando Pirates coach Zinnbauer right, and are Bafana Bafana set to bomb out of World Cup qualifiers?

Was ex-Orlando Pirates coach Zinnbauer right, and are Bafana Bafana set to bomb out of World Cup qualifiers?


SA begin their World Cup qualifiers away to Zimbabwe on Friday, followed by a home match with Ghana on Monday and a showdown in Ethiopia on October 6

The upcoming World Cup qualifiers will provide a good gauge of the current health of the Bafana Bafana side.

It’s a very tough group and considering that only the winning team will go through to the final round of qualifiers, Bafana are up against it.

Despite that, the South African Football Association is expecting new head coach Hugo Broos to lead Bafana to the World Cup.


Broos has come in with a new broom and swept aside what he believes are the deadwood and he’s been talking about ushering in a more youthful team.

But will those young players have not only the physical capacity, but also the mental fortitude and emotional strength to succeed?

It’s debatable, especially when former Orlando Pirates coach Josef Zinnbauer’s warning is taken into account.

Following his exit from Pirates only a couple of games into the new season, the German said:

“There are things that you can teach your players as a senior head coach and there are things that a player should have learned from a young age, which is difficult to teach when he is already old,” Zinnbauer told the media.


“I enjoyed my time as an Orlando Pirates coach, but players there lack development, basic skills. Especially the defenders, even a 17-year-old European defender can do much better than some 30-year-old PSL defenders. You can teach, shout, but it’s impossible to change their weakness at that age.”

The jist of his tirade was that South African football is lacking at grassroots level, that players are not fully groomed in all aspects by the time they make it to the top levels.

If South African football as a whole is to be self critical about it, Zinnbauer has made some relevant points. Because if we are being honest, there is not enough resources placed in grassroots development in this country; certainly nowhere near the standards of European and international football.

Proper development – the holistic coaching and life-skills teaching, needs to happen from a young age, and live-in academies are one way to achieve this.

South African football comes up short in these aspects – clubs would rather spend millions on quick-fix solutions – buying players from other clubs and paying them big salaries, instead of pumping funds in at the bottom – where of course there is no guarantee that an 11-year-old will make it.


It’s possibly for this reason – the shortage of holistic development from a young age, that players in the PSL are still lacking some important aspects. For too many years, South African football has relied mainly on the incredible skills our players have. But in the modern game, that’s not enough, and unfortunately, another failure to qualify for the World Cup, which seems a strong possibility, is set to underline that.

Of course Broos can always say that this was because his players are young and lacking in experience and that the qualifiers were a good learning curve – his decision to go for a younger team gives him that built-in excuse.