Thapelo Moloantoa of Shibobo Football in London looks a topic of much debate in this country - whether or not entertaining, individualistic showmanship should be sacrificed for winning soccer.
Winning is not everything, its the only thing said American football and Green Bay Packers legend Vince Lombardi in the 1960s.
Its now almost a full four decades and like all wise words, the meaning of Lombardis quote continues to be relevant today.
The relevance of this saying within this context has to do with a currently topical issue in South African football and that is whether our football is dominated by too much individualistic showmanship and less forward skit en donder type football.
The premises upon which these two opposing views is based on is that firstly the straight forward type of football is results orientated and its primary mission is to bag the goals that ensure victory, this is your typical fast
paced-play the wings-cross into danger-box, European style of football and has proved to produce many goals (except in Italy where defence is king).
On the other hand you have more like slow-build up-short-pass-creative type of football to be found in countries like
Brazil and South Africa.
I think though that discussion around the above contrasting views shouldnt only be confined within the parameters of our national style of play but should seek to also encompass views about our football within a broader field i.e. football as an area of entertainment (on and off the field).
As a business entity that continues to have millions of fans who are prepared to spend a lot on it, South African football like any other business should continue to seek new innovative ways through which the spending power of the fans becomes transformed into real capital for the clubs i.e. successful marketing drives that result in increased revenue for club.
Revenue which can be used to improve the clubs Academy, build its own training ground/offices/ community development structures etc.
I have always maintained that its not appropriate to make comparisons and contrasts between South African and European football on and off the field because many have incorrectly used European football as a benchmark, which can be unfair.
But now Ive realised that being a global sport, in some cases it becomes almost impossible not to draw such comparisons especially after doing some travelling and gaining different experiences of the beautiful game in different parts of the
In my experience of attending Premiership matches I have realized that the off the field entertainment value forms a very critical area of the English game and brings about massive revenue for clubs.
When one watches even mid-table teams like Charlton or Tottenham one cant help but marvel at the plethora of value enhancing strategies that the clubs utilize to woo the supporters e.g. prize giveaways, fantasy football and match programs packed with details about discounts on club tours and items in the club store, meetings with former players, details about a range of community level projects etc.
The kind of value driven entertainment that reminds one of the National Soccer Leagues (PSL predecessor) Abdul Bhamjee brilliant marketing drives for Cup Final day in South African football. Those were the days when township stadiums
would be overflowing with multitudes of fans and wed often have to wait till half time to get a glimpse of the match.
Yes the vast majority of Premiership and Coca-Cola leagues, even Non-League English clubs draw their core support as a result of long history of representing their boroughs i.e. history going back several centuries. The kind of history that continues to propel clubs like Bloemfontein Celtics to remain loyal to the club even when it goes down.
Nevertheless the point being made here is that the clubs and the FA have continued to keep up with the times, sometimes even fusing with the very competition thats meant to draw fans away, like technological devices such as the internet, MP3s, pay-per-view-TV etc. in the process of drawing average 27-39 000 supporters per home game (60 000 for Man
A variety of strategies are used to market match day as a special outing for the individual fan, the group of friends, the family, the school kid, the local business person, the local borough council/community worker etc
The football market in the UK and in SA is obviously not the same and therefore one cannot expect either one to duplicate the others methods, the crux of the matter here is that South African football is:
1.experiencing an inflow of investment.
2. Is not lacking in terms of resources (leading League on the Continent)
3. Does not suffer from a lack of expertise to bring our standards on par with the best.
The second area of analysis and one which relates to the most vital part of the game is the entertainment value derived from the on the field play.
Assuming that Lombardi was well versed with soccer and he was to watch modern day Liverpool play Man United, would he buoyed over by the no-nonsense, gutsy approached as characterised by Steven Gerard or would he be more impressed by a combination of this no frills play with silky, intelligent touches as displayed by Portuguese sensation Ronaldo? Or
would he not give a hoot, only backing the winning team?
In my opinion I think that our football is a world-beater as confirmed by the various championship winning teams weve had beginning with the 1996 Africa Nations Team and 2003s Tse-Tse Flies.
Our football is still in its developmental stages in terms utilising advanced marketing strategies that will draw the 1980s crowds back to the stadium and therefore it makes perfect sense to utilise the area which we know can
bring the crowd back whilst simultaneously evolving with new developments in the game.
It is a combination of purposeful, no frills play and the shibobos and tsamayas that the paying consumer appreciates. The kind of play displayed by Shakes Kunguoanes defence splitting passes, Doc Khumalos mesmerising runs combined with Neil Toveys, Bricks Mudaus and Gerald SbedlelaRaphahlelas no nonsense approach.
At international club level one finds that the Bernabeu faithful pay not only to watch Ronaldos amazing goals but the magic shown by the manner in which Salgado et al. bring cover for Robertos Carlos amazing overlapping, not withstanding
Zidanes trickery on the field.
Bolton and Nigerias faithful, Brazil and Barcelonas faithful, Portugal and Man Uniteds faithful etc pay their pennies/euros to watch and marvel at the outrageous skills displayed by Jay-Jay Okocha, Rhonaldino and Ronaldo respectively.
I remember watching Chiefs bringing the wheels off a visiting Crystal Palace in brilliant displays from the Khumalo-Khuse midfield combination whilst Pirates bamboozled the SE London club with mouthwatering displays from Botsotso Makhanya and Pio Noguiera.
If Shankly was to witness such beautiful and yet results orientated football Im quite sure he would not hasten to add that winning the best way you know how is the only thing.