Has World Cup lifted the bar for South African soccer?

July 14, 2010

Daily News

After the World Cup ends, it is time to look back and analyze the competition thoroughly. The best way to learn about the game, its players, and its future is to look at its past. Right now, the 2010 World Cup is fresh in our memories and what a glorious World Cup it was. Spain won it for the first time. Holland made it to another final without being crowned victors. Germany proved that skillful youth could overrun even the most experienced players. And South Africa as a nation showed the world all about their country and culture.

What the players and fans return to when the World Cup is over is different for every country. The hope, or in some cases despair, regarding a country’s national team is something that will be on the minds of every individual nation. One thing is for certain, in about two months time, in Europe, South America, and Asia, soccer returns to its usual seasonal leagues and South Africa is no exception.Puma Unity Kit 1 low res

Many players that play for the South African national team play their club soccer in the South African Premier League. Compared to the English Premier League, the Spanish La Liga, and the Italian Serie A, the South African Premier League may not be the first name that comes to mind when thinking of great leagues around the world. Yet the South African Premier League has the seventh-richest TV contract in the world. Despite these numbers, there’s an obvious disparity between the popularity of the league, and the talent coming through it.

It’s no secret that South Africa performed poorly, although admirably, at the World Cup. They played with spirit and heart, but they lacked quality in most positions on the field. They are the first host nation to not make it out of their group and advance past the first round. For the nation’s team to succeed, the infrastructure in the Premier League needs to be in better working order.

Despite the large television viewing audience, South Africa is still very much a rugby-centered country. The interest in South African soccer after this World Cup has nowhere to go but up. Since the World Cup was announced to take place there in 2004, the country has had a lot of time to make sure their soccer would be noticed on the world stage and beyond. It’s a great thing to host the World Cup, but the country needs to ask, “Now what?”

The new and improved stadiums should hopefully boost the attraction for players to play in the league. And with the influx of money from the World Cup, they should have plans to increase and enhance the league from this position forward. Maintaining and building a strong Premier League is the priority for South African soccer after this World Cup. Despite being a small country, they have much on their side to become a great soccer nation in the future.

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