Players, coaches and staff who are interested in working in South African football, this is for you. I was recently asked about the condition of football in South Africa in general, and whether it is becoming a destination for foreign players, as has been the case in North Africa in recent years. Yes, I believe it is.
The South African Premier Division (PSL) is the most valuable league in Africa. There is increasing professionalism of the 2nd tier, 3rd tier and MDC (PSL reserve league, sponsored by Africa’s largest television network) and money being pumped in at all levels by private investors, TV rights deals, corporate sponsorships. On the other hand, many players, coaches and intermediaries have told me about issues of salaries not being paid and poor league organization, which are considerably limited issues in South Africa’s top two tiers.
People are starting to notice that the better managed clubs get results and are rewarded by organization. Examples in the PSL include the likes of Bidvest Wits, SuperSport United, Golden Arrows, Bloemfontein Celtic. In the NFD it will not be long before University of Pretoria returns to the PSL, while Stellenbosch FC have revived the Vasco da Gama structure into promotion contenders each season simply due to effective management.
South African Attraction
2010: South Africa hosted the FIFA World Cup for the first time ever in Africa. During the past 4 years, South African clubs have won the CAF Champions League, been Runners-up and twice Runners-up in the Confederations Cup. Perhaps there is some pull because of opportunities to play in Europe, since foreign clubs have been attracted by South Africa’s increasing presence of European coaches and the limited scamming and age debates of countries in Southern Africa in general.
Many African National Teams have far more players playing for European clubs than South Africa’s National Team has, but most South African players have had opportunities in Europe or played there and returned. Another aspect is the attraction of foreign players to local clubs due to their history of success (take for example Chris Katongo or Khama Billiat). Then there is the change of regulations in the NFD, which now requires only two South African players under the age of 23 to be fielded per game as opposed to the old rule of five.
However, rule changes have also limited PSL and NFD clubs to a maximum of 5 contracted foreign players at any time. Of course, in general clubs will give preference to local players, of which there is an abundance here, many of whom are former internationals and/or PSL players and without a club. Then in the NFD clubs receive far lower grants and fear the huge costs of relegation, so it is risky for them to sign foreign players (who are often more costly than local players). As for coaches, 9 of the 16 NFD clubs have replaced their Head Coaches only 13 games into the 30-game season, while this threat of relegation means household names are favoured.
This is a beautiful country, where football has been growing in leaps and bounds.