2 August 2017 –  Bafana Bafana recently secured their passage to the next round of the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) with a convincing victory over Botswana over two legs and will now take on Zambia.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) administered tournament is exclusively for locally based players and is thus vital for local football and promising youth.  With the likes of Kaizer Chiefs star Ryan Moon shining in both legs and scoring goals, this statement is made much more believable and indeed credible.

At the start of the 2014 edition, all games were officially recorded as ‘first team’ matches and ‘proper’, competitive internationals providing the event with some much need gravitas and grandeur.

The South African Football Association (SAFA) have quickly realized this and strongly believe that CHAN is to be taken seriously and the best efforts put in by the selected players, coaching staff as well as the relevant administrators.

By this specific tourney being reserved for only those who participate in their own domestic league, SAFA views it as the perfect opportunity to blood such youngsters on the international stage. The standard of the competition is high as the majority of African players still ply their trade on the African continent. A total of 48 out of CAF’s 52 member states have entered this year’s tournament.

National coach Stuart Baxter has himself stated and reiterated the importance of taking such a tournament seriously and suggested that the country reposition its stance towards the competition. Gone are the days in which the team and public viewed such games as warm-ups or friendlies. Speaking after the Botswana win he vehemently stated: “What we have tried to do now is to put it somewhere, where it serves South African football.”

Baxter’s squad consisted of some players who did duty for SA in last month’s U20 World Cup in South Korea, and PSL players, some of whom are not regular starters at their clubs, such as SuperSport’s Boalefa Pule.

Players such as Moon, SuperSport United’s South Africa Under-20 international Teboho Mokoena, and Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Sibusiso Khumalo made their debuts during the first leg and showed the public exactly what they are made off. This then also provides players to stake claims for bigger competitions by impressing the coach and showing off their talent.

Moon grabbed his chance with both hands and could now move on to greater pastures such as Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and World Cup qualifiers. Such performance also get one noticed by various Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs and could seriously change a player’s career.

There can be no better platform to expose youth, nurture them and provide them with the necessary, priceless international experience as they move up the ranks. Such opportunities are few and far between for players who won’t necessarily get a chance in events such as AFCON due to their overseas based counterpart getting the nod.

Ultimately, CHAN is a fantastic medium and could end up revolutionizing the careers of local stars and football development in general.

SAFA recognises this and vows to invest more time, effort and money into tournaments such as this as well as the COSAFA CUP.  Locally based players (including SAB League, ABC Motsepe League and NFD stars) will naturally be inspired knowing that such a competition exists and highly motivated to partake. This all augurs well for development and the country’s football as a whole.

By Dhirshan Gobind