An inkling of optimism? The year ahead for SA football in 2022
SA football will be hoping 2022 proves more successful than the year we are saying goodbye to.
In 2021 Bafana Bafana failed in both the Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup qualifiers, Mamelodi Sundowns lost to Al Ahly in the Champions League and an ugly court battle preceded the start of the new league season.
There was also the sad demise of Bloemfontein Celtic, after years of tumultuous financial woes, and an almost complete absence of SA footballers in the top leagues of the world.
Percy Tau did manage a handful of games in England’s Premier League but Bongani Zungu attracted the wrong headlines in Scotland and Ligue 1 regular Lebogang Mothiba spent the entire year sidelined by injury.
Pitso Mosimane kept the flag flying with his coaching achievements in Egypt and was, without any shadow of a doubt, the top footballing performer from SA in 2021.
But, as the old year turns into the new, we are able to set aside the disappointments and start afresh, looking with anticipation ahead. Here is TimesLIVE’s guide on what to expect in SA football in 2022:
The Cup of Nations in Cameroon has limited SA interest with Roger de Sa the assistant coach for Egypt and Riedon Berdien the physical trainer and analyst for Gambia when not in charge of Sundowns’ preparedness. Premier Soccer League-based payers featured mainly in the Malawi and Zimbabwe teams, who are expecting an early exit.
The resumption of the DStv Premiership season after the break for a tournament in which SA was not involved kicks off with the Nedbank Cup but all eyes will be on AmaZulu and Sundowns as they begin the group phase of the Champions League. Sundowns take on Mosimane’s Al Ahly again. Orlando Pirates, at the same time, compete in the Caf Confederation Cup where they will be one of the favourites.
The international window is the first time since November to see Bafana Bafana back in action but, as of late December, no friendly had yet been announced for the team, leaving the inevitable late scramble by Safa to find an opponent.
The quarterfinals of the two African club competitions will hopefully still have some SA interest but this could be the month where runaway Premiership leaders Sundowns wrap up a record-extending fifth successive league title
The Nedbank Cup final, end of the league and Champions League final mark the conclusion of yet another campaign. Can Sundowns win a second star in the Champions League? That is certainly their stated ambition for the year.
The promotion-relegation playoffs are always a stressful time for those concerned with hopes of competing in the Premiership next season. The month also marks the start of the qualifiers for the next Africa Cup of Nations, one year away in the Ivory Coast.
A new domestic SA season dawns, bringing with it a repetition of the inevitable question of who can possibly stop Sundowns. Kaizer Chiefs and Pirates remain clubs with resources but nothing like the Motsepe money that drives Downs to new levels of achievement. Unless the Soweto pair can begin to again match then, they are going to become fading forces.
The World Cup in Qatar means disruption to leagues worldwide, including in SA. Another break domestically will not be welcomed but is likely to be forgotten within days as fans around the globe settle down to watch the greatest sporting spectacle of them all.
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