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'Radical Safa reform could unlock Bafana World Cup success'

Quinton Fortune says a Safa overhaul could unlock talent for SA to be crowned future world champions.

Former Manchester United and Bafana Bafana star Quinton Fortune. Picture: Facebook.

CAPE TOWN - Former Manchester United and Bafana Bafana star Quinton Fortune has told EWN Sport that a complete overhaul of the South African Football Association (Safa) would not only see an improvement of the game in the country, but could unlock a talent pool that could see the country be crowned future world champions.

The 38-year-old, Cape Town born midfielder, is based in Manchester in his role as an ambassador for Manchester United since his retirement in 2010.

He played for the Red Devils over 70 times and represented the national team on over 40 occasions. In a wide-ranging interview with EWN Sport , he was particularly insistent about the fact that Safa must undergo massive reform and create an inclusive culture where former players can provide their input on national football matters.

"We need to get rid of them (current administration), clean the slate, put in football people, people that understand the game. The values need to change with our football association. I'm so passionate about this because I know what we (Bafana Bafana) are capable of doing. Until that changes and the mindset changes, I'm afraid we going to be in this position that we are in now for a very long time."

He passionately adds: "We (South Africa) have the talent and the ability to win the World Cup, not compete in the World Cup, but win the World Cup".

Fortune says he has been laughed at before when declaring his belief in South African football talent, however, he is not gushing with pride when talking about the current state of the national side, Bafana Bafana. In fact he sounds disillusioned.

He mentions the likes of Shaun Bartlett, Delron Buckley, Bradley Carnell and Lucas Radebe among a few others who have played at a high or international level.

As a player who spent just under two decades plying his trade in various European leagues, Fortune believes learnings must be taken from across the pond as the expectations and demands on players are so much more overseas.

He thinks former players understand how to create the right atmosphere in the national side: "If someone has played the game, I'm sure I want to use that person because he understands the trade, he understands what the players think, he understands what is needed. You have to create the environment that players want to play for the national team."

He goes onto say that players are not excited by playing for the national team because of the way things are run in South African football: "The moment he (the player) gets on that plane, the mind is already negative and he won't perform to 100 percent of his ability because he does not want to be there."

Fortune references 25-year-old midfielder Kamohelo Mokotjo of FC Twente's premature retirement as evidence of Safa's shortcomings.

Mokotjo, who has represented the national side through all the junior levels, has been a shining light in the Eredivisie, but had expressed his dissatisfaction with national coach Shakes Mashaba in the Dutch media before halting his international career.

The former United man says Safa's selection from age group level right up until the national team gives one the sense that there is more at play than just picking the best players.

Fortune says that from the outside looking in, it seems geographical location also carries a lot of sway when it comes to selection and references the Ajax Cape Town Under-17 side that enjoyed a decorated year winning five tournaments in 2015.

"If you are the best team in South Africa at Under-17, and the national under-17 team qualify for the World Cup and not one of those players are selected, that frustrates me… I don't understand that, if you are good enough to win the national league and not one of those players are selected for the national team, that is where our problem starts."

Fortune wants the culture and running of the national side to be overhauled in order for players to take pride and enjoy their experience when they pull on the Bafana Bafana jersey.

He believes the national football side can be a source of pride once more for the nation: "My goal is to change that. That's why I am doing my coaching badges and learning as much as I can in Europe and, God willing, I can come home and help out wherever I can, whether its juniors or seniors, as long as my national side is successful like the rugby and like the cricket."

He's currently in the process of achieving his Uefa coaching badges where he is close to acquiring his 'A' license, which is just below the ultimate goal of completing his 'PRO' license, this in turn allows him to coach anywhere in the world.

After playing all of his professional football in Europe, which saw him start out as youth player at Tottenham Hotspur and go onto play in four different countries including Spain (Atletico Madrid) and Italy (Brescia), he moved onto his beloved Manchester United, where he played for seven years and was a part of three Premier League title winning seasons, but never played the required 10 matches to claim a medal.

In 2003 he was awarded a medal with special dispensation after playing nine league matches.

Fortune ,who played all of his matches under the watch of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson, says since the Scots' departure as manager, the club is different: "The culture has definitely changed at United since Sir Alex left."

However, he feels judgement should be reserved until after the season: "We have to accept that Louis Van Gaal is the manager and he is going to do it his way, so we are just going to have wait and see what the team achieves."

United still has a chance of silverware this season as they take on Crystal Palace in the FA Cup Final on 21 May.

Fortune believes Champions League football is a must for a club like United and it hurts that his former team are not the dominant force they once were: "It's hard because we have been used to winning for so many years, we are used to competing for every single game, people knew if they were playing Manchester United they were going to have to play out of their skins."

Fortune, who has shared a dressing room with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, understands the fans' frustration with the style of football: "It's hard for the fans to accept that and to watch because we are used to playing a certain type of football, which is forward thinking football, attacking football, exciting football and now it's more about possession football and keeping the ball and almost trying to score the perfect goal."

Despite an enigmatic Manchester United these days, Fortune remains optimistic about their future and their FA Cup Final later this month, but does admit with the pressures of managers so amplified these days that missing out on Champions League football can be fatal for any manager of a club that has big aspirations.

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