The unfortunate and current standoff between the South African Football Association (SAFA) and some Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs regarding their refusal to release players to perform national duty has been brought to my attention. This is a serious matter as it denies our u20 squad the muscle to go give their best in the upcoming FIFA U20 World Cup in Korea. It also denies young players valuable international experience and the pride of representing their country.
The struggle for the release of players is an historical problem of club versus country. The South African Football Association and government has affirmed on many occasion that it is our patriotic duty and an essential part of government priorities of Social Cohesion and Nation Building that our best possible team, represent the country in any major tournament on the world stage including the u20 FIFA World Cup.
It remains the responsibility of all clubs therefore to continue to encourage our talented young stars to go and become good ambassadors and positive role models for all their peers by enabling them to take part in international competitions and events.
The South African Football Association approached the Ministry of Sport and Recreation to assist in finding a permanent solution to this problem that has continued to affect all our football national teams when it comes to international competitions. Our National teams end up not being a true reflection of the coach’s first choice adversely impacting on the performance of the team.
SAFA failed on a number of occasions to strike a compromise with PSL therefore leading to the current impasse. SAFA has therefore requested me to investigate what legislative options exist to ensure that our country is represented by our best available talent.
I urge the parties to find a solution in the short-term – one which recognizes the primacy of the national team but which may allow for flexibility in very special circumstances – something which could even form the basis of a binding Memorandum of Agreement.
In the meantime, my Department is investigating international best practice. This would include the legislative option. For example the Spanish government has passed a law which makes it compulsory for athletes to represent their country first ahead of any competing obligations, including to their local teams. I will be reverting to SAFA and the PSL with my findings and recommendations in the near future, Minister TW. Nxesi
Issued by the Department of Sport and Recreation South Africa