Former South Africa captain Lucas Radebe sat down with FIFA.com to share his reflections on the FIFA World Cup™ so far. Radebe praised the organisation of the tournament and spoke optimistically about the legacy it might leave for Africa. Yet he was less complimentary about the African teams' performances and lamented Bafana Bafana's profligacy in front of goal as well as calling for a change to the national-team coaching set-up.
FIFA.com: So much was said about this FIFA World Cup™ – the first one on African soil and in your own country. What have been your impressions so far?
Lucas Radebe: This World Cup has restored a lot of pride in Africans. Africans are proud of what has been achieved during this tournament. The opening ceremony was fantastic and the attendance at matches has been great. For me, it's been absolutely fantastic, watching all these great teams with all these great players, it’s awesome for our people. I think the last few days of the tournament will be thrilling.
South Africa put on a stupendous effort against Mexico in the Opening Match at Soccer City and they received rave reviews. What do you think went wrong against Uruguay in their second game?
Obviously it was a good start, I think everyone knew that the Mexico game was going to be the toughest for South Africa, and in hindsight, we could have won that game. Our finishing was not good enough throughout the tournament. At this level, if you get chances you have to say 'thank you very much', and bury the chance, simple as that. You cannot afford to misfire. I don't want to talk about the Uruguay game, I know that many South Africans would love to forget about that one.
There will be a lot of finger-pointing afterwards, but in your opinion, what has been the root of the problem as the team has not really performed that well in the last few years?
First of all, I must say, we are all disappointed with what has happened, we desperately wanted to go to the second round. The problem is that we neglected development. Maybe in hindsight, we haven't really involved the right people in our national set-up who understand our football and who can take us to where we want to go. When we won the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations, we had a local coach in Clive Barker, he understood the players. When we played at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, we had a local coach in Jomo Sono and we nearly qualified for the knockout stages but lost on goal difference. We need to trust our own. We need to develop a structure that will take our football to greater heights.
Who do you think should take over the Bafana Bafana coaching job from Carlos Alberto Parreira?
That's a tough one, but I believe a local guy should be in charge. We have been saying for a long time that we need someone who understands our players and our culture. We need to give confidence to our own people. Of course I'm not against a foreign person being involved, but he shouldn't be a coach, but rather a part of the technical staff. Some of the most successful teams in the world are coached by locals, why can't we do the same?
You played in two FIFA World Cups, in 1998 and 2002. What was your greatest memory of playing on the world stage?
That's an easy one. When I scored that goal against Spain in our last group match in 2002 (laughs), that was special. But seriously, representing my country was an honour and leading my country to two World Cups will always remain a highlight. Never mind the result, but being there in France 1998 was special, it was our first World Cup. But again, I think we enjoyed it more in 2002, Jomo made life easy for us, he was fantastic and we were unlucky.
The African teams seem to be struggling and one could say they have not lived up to expectations? What would you attribute that to?
The preparations for the African teams has been really bad. To be honest, I think the problem lies with the organisation. Sometimes, players are let down by poor administration. This was a great opportunity for African teams to show their worth. There were so many problems with the teams – some hiring coaches a few months before the tournament, that doesn't help. There seem to be many problems with the African teams. Everyone thought teams like Nigeria would do well, but if you look at that team, they play more as individuals not as a team. Ghana have been outstanding, they are the only hope for Africa to go further. Côte d'Ivoire had a very tough group, I can't be harsh on them. Cameroon were poor and one would say they were not good enough. Our teams just didn't up their game.
A lot was said about an African team winning the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Realistically, what is the best we can now hope for from this year's tournament?
As I said, Ghana have a great chance. They are in the knockout stages and anything can happen now going forward. The whole of Africa is hoping that they will continue flying our flag high. But it's a pity that only one African side reached this stage.
In general, which team has impressed you yet in this competition?
I think Spain is capable of winning it. Yes they lost their first game, but they have so much quality and are capable of doing well. This World Cup is really unpredictable. But I fancy Spain to win it – maybe Spain and Argentina in the final.
You are a man with strong links with the development and humanitarian side of the game. Last week, you visited an SOS village, can you tell us a bit about what happened there?
I'm grateful that I have managed to play football at the highest level and I believe this is a way of giving back to my community. I’m happy that FIFA has involved me on many projects like that. One of my priorities is to have an impact on as many young lives as possible. We want to help kids get opportunities so that they can uplift their communities.
At the end of the day, what legacy would you want this FIFA World Cup to leave for the African people and do you think that can be achieved?
Well you have to look at our stadiums, the infrastructure and roads. But apart from that, I believe this World Cup will change attitudes. We hope it will inspire many lives in Africa and bring a new dawn in our continent.