20 December 2017 – How does a country ensure sustained footballing success? Is it a mere case of investing in all things player-related i.e. training, conditioning, financial incentives, sponsorships, endorsements and placement at marquee clubs?

The answer is an unequivocal no and the ultimate formulation of any master plan designed by a footballing association or body, goes deeper than a mere focus on players. Such plans need to inculcate more and include aspects such as proper administrator and coaching development as well as match official training at the highest levels, all at the youngest possible ages. A keen focus on the above-mentioned streams will go a long way to guaranteeing long-term success for any country’s footballing ambitions.


The administrative side of football is underrated. Not many understand its importance and the critical role that it plays in all facets of football. Most are au fait with on-field footballing activities but how much do we really know about off-field initiatives that take place in the background and keep football running.

Football administration can be viewed as the heartbeat of football.  Take this aspect away and expect chaos. In what is not particularly the easiest of careers, this particular function needs to be taken more seriously and see relevant, dedicated people groomed from as early as possible. Kudos to all administrators at all levels who keep the game going!


The coaching aspect of football is key for the development and grooming of a country’s playing talent. Yes natural talent is welcomed but will only take one so far. Even the Messi’s and Ronaldo’s of this world still need to be shaped and moulded into perfect players and the only way to do that is via top-notch coaching.

Coaching systems are also vital in understanding national playing styles/philosophies as well as identifying, nurturing and building rich and robust talent pipelines. The best way of achieving this is to get budding coaches involved as early as possible in order to build up a wealth of experience over the years and decades that follow.

The South African Football Association (SAFA) has taken the necessary steps in this regard with decent coaching education programmes (including regular workshops) and the results have so far been positive with many new licenses being approved each and every year.


Match Officials

The development of match officials is another aspect that requires a bit more attention. There seems to be a lack of international quality referees at present but this can easily be changed with the right attitude and systems.

In South African terms, we would love to be a premium exporter of referring talent and see multiple home-grown match officials plying their trade in World Cups and Olympic Games. This also goes a long way to improving football in the country as a whole.

The key here is early development. Managing games, on-field decision making and controlling of players doesn’t come easy and takes years of experience. Devising a clear pathway in this chosen career is the duty of the football association and again SAFA seems to have programmes, systems and projects in place to facilitate development nicely, especially with the National Referees Committee firmly in place. There is also a Referees Department which serves as the operational arm responsible for day-to-day activities and is guided by a six-point programme to ensure maximum overall quality.  Groom them early, reap the benefits!

By: Dhirshan Gobind