Why is SA struggling to export?
Are the days of top South African players moving from the Premier Soccer League to Europe over? MTNFootball.com investigates …
There was a time when South Africa’s top players would make their way to England, Spain, Germany and even Italy with what seemed fair regularity.
Never quite in the same numbers as west African players from Nigeria, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, whose size and strength is valued over the more diminutive, yet perhaps more skillful, players from Mzansi.
But the number of South African players in Europe is steadily declining, with more opting to either stay with local clubs in the PSL. And some have also opted to return to the country from abroad, rather than seek opportunities elsewhere.
So the question is why? The easy answer is to suggest that the quality of South African players is not what it once was, as is reflected in the decline of the national team.
This does have some truth to it, but there are other very important factors to take into account as well.
1) - The economic crises in Europe has hit many teams hard and as such when they look at a country like South Africa, they are look for bargains. It is debatable, in the current environment, whether there is any player in the country who could justify a 1-million euro transfer fee. Yet that is what South Africa’s top clubs are asking.
2) - The economic situation in Europe means there are also plenty of quality free agents available having been released by their clubs who could no longer afford their wages. These are players with experience of playing Europe and it is a much ‘safer’ option than bringing an ‘unknown’ talent from South Africa.
3) - The wages that are paid in the PSL these days are comparable, or in some cases even better, than in the leagues of Belgium, Turkey, Greece, Denmark, Sweden and so on, countries that would more readily look to South African talent. For that reason, it is often ‘safer’ for the player to remain in the PSL where he is assured of playing.
4) - South Africa’s failure to qualify for the last two Nations Cup tournaments has hurt the reputation of the country’s football, and scouts now often look to the more successful nations for talent. They need to start climbing the FIFA Rankings again.
5) - The quality of the PSL has improved immeasurably in the last three years and it is not an attractive competition to play in, with good financial rewards for players. Europe looks less like the Promised Land.
6) - The explosion of players into Europe from Asia and Australia has hurt South Africa’s exports. These players tend to be in the same grouping as South Africans, smaller with good techniques. That makes them less of a threat to west Africans.
Outstanding South African talents, such as Thulani Serero and Ayanda Patosi, will continue to find a home abroad, but the journeyman player who in the past could have won himself a contract in Russia, Turkey, Belgium or Greece will become a rarity unless the country and resume its place near the top of the African list of countries.