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Lucky Number 13 | Cut PSL Players Some Slack

17 May 2013 Kagiso Khaole

Now that the league champions have been decided, the eyes of the South African soccer fraternity switches over to the performance of individuals throughout the 2012/2013 campaign. The nomination of players for individual awards are, unavoidably, a subjective vote based on the views of the judging panel elected. The only award that remains an objective decision, are the top goalscorer award.

“When thirteen ain’t enough…”

Katlego “Mahoota” Mashego (30), is currently the leading marksman in the Absa Premiership, having notched up 13 goals this season. The former Hellenic, Silver Stars, SuperSport United, Orlando Pirates, Golden Arrows *pause for breath* and current Moroka Swallows striker looks set to be named the league’s top scorer.

His 13 goal-haul sparked an interesting debate on Twitter this week on the goal scoring exploits of our PSL players. The general consensus amongst the soccer loving “Tweeps” is that the Absa Premiership is failing to produce enough players with at least 10 goals in the league each season. References were made to the goal scoring antics of players in the top leagues in Europe but are the PSL’s numbers that far off their international counterparts?

“Touching distance…”

Not being one to leave a question hanging, I decided to look at how the Absa Premiership’s top 10 goalscorers compare to the top 10 across the top leagues in Europe. In order to even out the playing field, I normalised all the league’s for 38 matches per team per season (20 team league). So the Absa Premiership and Portuguese Liga stats would receive a 25% boost because those leagues comprised of only 16 teams (30 matches per team per season). Similar logic was applied to Bundesliga (Germany) and Eredivise (Netherlands) which each boast only 18 teams in their league.

PSL vs The World No surprise, South Africa ranked in last place with an average of 13 league goals scored by the top 10 players from 08/09 to the current 12/13 season. The real (unadjusted) average number of goals scored by the top 10 players in the Absa Premiership over the last 5 seasons is 11 goals.

The Absa Premiership is not that far away from other European leagues in terms of goals from their top payers. Worth highlighting is the 08/09 season, Nicolas Anelka (19 goals) beat Cristiano Ronaldo (18 goals), Steven Gerard (16 goals) and Fernando Torres (14 goals) for the Barclays Premiership top goalscorer title in England. Meanwhile back in the Absa Premiership, Richard Henyekane collected the league’s golden boot award with 19 league goals to his name.

All of the Barclays Premiership’s golden boot winners scored at least one goal every two games, that works out to at least 15 goals a season if a PSL player plays in all 30 league games that season. It is highly unlikely that an outfield player is never injured or suspended the whole season, so once again, 13 seems to be the golden number.

“The gods amongst mere mortals…”

In recent times, goal scoring records have been broken all over Europe with Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Rodamel Falcao setting the standard in their respective leagues over the last few seasons. These players are the cream of the world’s crop, is it reasonable to compare the scoring records of these players against that of Nomvethe, Mphela, Musona, Rodgers, Olomu, Khenyeza, Parker, Kadi, Manqele, Chenene and Renteria?

What if I removed the likes of Van Persie, Drogba, Tevez, Eto’o, Messi, Ronaldo, Villa, Aguero, Cavani, Ibrahimovic, Milito, Di Natale, Huntelaar, Dzeko, Gomez, Lewandowski, Bas Dost, Suarez, Giroud, Lopez, Benzema, Hulk, Falcao and Oscar Cardozo from the scoring charts?
PSL vs The World (minus bo Messi)Once you subtract those billions of rands in transfer fees and salaries, that average of 13 goals in the South African leagues looks a whole lot more exciting. South Africa leapfrogs the Italian, English, French and Portuguese leagues in the average goals scored when you drop the top 5 players off that list.

Rooney, Berbatov, Ba, Chicharito, Adebayor, Higuain, Llorente, Klose, Robinho, Ronaldinho, Henry, Pazzini, Totti, Pato, Muller, Toni, Pranjic, Kalou, Remy, Pastore and Lucho Gonzalez are some of the household names that remain on the list. On a one-to-one basis, it is still somewhat nonsensical to compare these international superstars to the likes of Pikolethu Spelman, Thembinkosi Fanteni, Rodney Ramagalela and Luyanda Bacela. Yet a league by league comparison illustrates that what Cuthbert Malajila, Bradley Grobler and Ayanda Dlamini have been delivering over the past few season is comparable to the top leagues in England.

“Double up…”

No doubt I’d love to have PSL players scoring 20 odd goals a season but have to understand context of the Mzansi football we love. If a player scores 20 or more goals in the Absa Premiership, it’s a guarantee that player will not be in the PSL the following season (barring age, I see you Bhele Nomvethe).

So when you point out Ndumiso Mabena, I will point out that he scored twice as much as against Black Leopards than Danny Welbeck did in all 26 league matches he’s played for English champions, Manchester United. That is probably why Mabena wears number 26, twice SA soccer’s lucky number 13. My man!

  • http://twitter.com/Tom_18Yards Thomas Monyepao

    Nice one baba. I have to disagree with 1 point where you say “on a one-to-one basis, it is still somewhat nonsensical to compare these
    international superstars to the likes of Pikolethu Spelman” The likes of Spelman are competing against the likes of Shere Lekgathoane and Mapaha as defenders and keepers so it’s not really unfair to expect more from our strikers. But I get your point. I’ll say im 50/50 on this 1

    • Kagiso

      I knew this point will come up. To the same effect that Van Persie is up against John Terry and Ronaldo is up against Pique, Parker will match up to Sangweni. Top leagues have top players, ok leagues have ok players. Looking at how PSL quality strikers fared against PSL quality defenders is better then PSL quality strikers versus World Class strikers. Comparing performances against their peers is a fair way to assess their performance.

      Look at Bhele’s strike rate last season, that’s comparable to a 25 goal league season in Italy, England, Spain. If a player is that far above his peers, better quality teams in top leagues will snap him up.

      • http://twitter.com/Tom_18Yards Thomas Monyepao

        Dutch league has great scorers even though it’s pretty much a selling league too. I didnt bother to check the scoring stats (feel free to point em out) but their top goalgetters usually score high dont they (as I said correct me if I am wrong)

        • Kagiso

          No doubt, that’s why that leagues ranks so highly on the two graphs above. Keep in mind that even Eredivise teams scour the world for top talent. Look at their alumni Ruud, Ronaldo, Suarez, Robben off the top of my head. Even look at the South Africans that have plyed their trade there (Schillo, Benni, Vonk, Parker, Erasmus), I think Mokotjo is the only SA player that played in Eredivisie that hasn’t played for Bafana. Some of those South Africans never kicked a ball in the PSL.

          2 of the 5 seasons I looked at, the golden boot was won with 23 goals (34 match season) there in Holland. Bhele, Mphela, Henyekane won with 20, 17, 19 league goals in the same time period (30 match season). There isn’t that much of a difference even though our club’s pool of players a largely COSAFA based players.