And it’s also why the men tasked with scoring the goals are so crucial to the game.
Here, in South Africa, consistent goal-getters have always been as rare as hen’s teeth. Be it at national level, or club level, coaches are always complaining about the lack of quality finishers in the box.
Many say it’s a skill that’s not taught, it’s something a player is born with. Using a current example such Luis Suarez, or gifted marksmen of the past like Gary Linker and Ian Rush, and that sentiment would certainly be true.
On the other hand, there are coaches, especially in South Africa, who believe the problem has to do with the manner in which football is approached.
In the PSL, and Bafana, there is far too much emphasis on playing to the crowd, on looking good, rather than just finishing, and scoring the goal. Too often, there is too much over-elaboration, rather than the simple act of putting the ball into the net, irrespective of how ugly it looks.
But that, of course, is a topic for another day.
With the league campaign taking a breather this week, for the quarter-finals of the Nedbank Cup, it’s perhaps the ideal time to focus on the PSL’s current leading scorers - and just who will win the Golden Boot come the end of the season.
As things stand, with five games to go, the winner will come from the top six marksmen - Collins Mbesuma, Thobani Mncwango, Prince Nxumalo, Khama Billiat, Jeremy Brockie and Leonardo Castro.
So let’s run the rule over the contenders:
Collins Mbesuma (Mpumalanga Black Aces)
The powerful 32-year-old Zambian striker needs no introduction. His prowess as a goal-scorer is not in question. Rewind to the 2004-2005 season and have a look at who won the Golden Boot… You guessed it, Mbesuma, when he plundered 25 goals for Kaizer Chiefs during that campaign.
After a few seasons in the doldrums, the veteran has been revitalised by Turkish coach Muhsin Ertugral at Aces - and he has his mind set on winning it again.
Thobani Mncwango (Polokwane City)
Nobody would have tipped the 28-year-old Polokwane forward to be among the challengers, but that’s exactly what he’s done and his confidence and belief are growing with every game.
In January this year, he scored all four goals as Polokwane hammered SuperSport United 4-1. Strong and pacy, and not shy to have a go, Mncwango may not be among the pundits’ favourites, but write him off at your peril.
Prince Nxumalo (Ajax Cape Town)
The 25-year-old Ajax man hit a purple patch recently, when he just couldn’t stop scoring. It earned him a call-up to the Bafana squad, but his opportunities at club level have been limited since the return to fitness of veteran Nathan Paulse.
Last week, Ajax coach Roger de Sa alluded to the fact that Nxumalo wasn’t looking very sharp at training, and hence Paulse had been preferred for the Cape club’s last two fixtures. If the scenario continues, Nxumalo is not likely to have a chance to increase his goal tally.
Khama Billiat (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Often accused of squandering the many scoring chances that come his way, the 25-year-old Billiat has vastly improved his game in this regard this season. He spent three years at Ajax (2010-2013), a spell which rocketedthe tricky Zimbabwean to prominence.
Now, at Sundowns, his vast potential has been realised and the exciting attacker is even being courted by French Lique 1 side, Lille. With Sundowns in fantastic form, and favourites for the PSL, it will be no surprise if Billiat overhauls Mbesuma.
Jeremy Brockie (SuperSport United)
The New Zealand striker, pictured far left, has caught the eye since arriving in the PSL last season - and he has scored some really special goals. He’s technically gifted and his composed, assured manner in the penalty area ensures that he finishes accurately and with aplomb. The 28-year-old Brockie had set his sights on winning the Golden Boot at the beginning of the season, but things never panned out because his SuperSport team were struggling. However, since the arrival of Stuart Baxter as coach, the Pretoria club is on the rise again - and for the Kiwi, the goals have arrived too.
Leonardo Castro (Mamelodi Sundowns)
The 26-year-old Colombian striker, pictured left, is in his first season in the PSL, but has already become a cult figure with the Sundowns supporters. Not only does his energy and industry create opportunities for teammates - he has forged a successful partnership with Billiat and Keagan Dolly - he has also netted quite a few goals himself. He’s currently four goals behind Mbesuma, but, if Sundowns keep performing as they have this season, there’s no reason why Castro cannot make up the deficit. He certainly has the ability, and the scoring pedigree to do so.
The goals have dried up for Mbesuma towards the latter stages of the campaign - perhaps the ageing legs are getting a bit heavy - Mncwango is at a struggling club, Nxumalo’s not too sure whether he’ll be playing regularly, and Castro has more ground to make up than Billiat and Brockie.
So the smart money is likely to be on Billiat or Brockie to take the Golden Boot.
And interesting observation, though, is that four of the six contenders are foreigners - and perhaps that is an indication of why Bafana are battling to find a reliable, consistent goal-scorer.
Original source: Who will snatch PSL Golden Boot?