Benni McCarthy says South African players lack ambition which has reflected in their performances.
Bafana Bafana have not qualified for the World Cup since 2002 and eight years later they became the first hosts to be eliminated in the group stage of a World Cup.
At continental level their sole Africa Cup of Nations triumph was back in 1996.
McCarthy, who led them to the Nations Cup runners-up spot in Burkina Faso two years later, reckons the current crop of players are not just hungry enough.
“I don’t think our South African players have that hunger, desire and ambition to play against the best players in the world,” the former FC Porto forward told BBC Sport Africa.
“To play against the best teams in the world or to play in the champions league or in the Europa League.
“I think our players are happy to be in South Africa, happy just to be good on one continent, but not to expand their wings or to go to Europe and struggle.
“When you come to Europe you willl struggle but it will pay dividends because when you go back to Africa you’ll see how you stand out because in Europe you’re playing against the best players in the world period.”
He pointed to the number of players who plied their trade around Europe during his career.
“That is what my generation had – look, I played in Ajax and Porto, Quintin Fortune was at Manchester United, Steven Pienaar at Ajax and later Everton, Shaun Bartlett Charlton, Lucas Radebe Leeds, Aaron Makoena at Blackburn Rovers and the rest,” he highlighted.
“We had so many players pushing it at the highest level.
“Don’t get me wrong maybe we were not the best or important players at our clubs – but because we were learning, whenever we came back home, we put what we had been through to make Bafana Bafana great.
“Now almost all of them are comfortable just being at home and even the few who go out are not a mainstay in their teams. We need good characters.”
A return to coaching
The 43-year-old is currently in Scotland, where his wife is based, after leaving his job as the head coach of Cape Town in 2019 but he is not closing the doors on a return to the touch line.
However he does feels being black might go against him getting a job in Europe.
“In Europe its hard as we’ve literally got none (black coaches) if you ask me, just maybe Chris Hughton at Nottingham Forest and then there is Darren Moore, at Doncaster Rovers,” he added.
“The reason for me is the lack of opportunities given, look at history and see how many black coaches have been given opportunities in the past.
“Look at a player like Mason Mount, if he hangs up his boots and wants to coach the path is clear, he is able look to up to someone like Lampard, how many people can black boys look up to? There is your answer.
“When I was young, I use to love Andy Cole and wanted to be like him, modelled my game around his game and looked up to him and I think I did well for myself.
“When it came to being a coach, I had no one to look up to so I had to watch a movie, (We Are The Titans) where Denzel Washington played the role of an American football coach. That is what inspired me, so you see, where are the black coaches to look up to.”
McCarthy holds the record as South Africa’s highest goal scorer with 32 goals and wants to add coaching the national team to achievements in future.
“The Bafana Bafana coaching job is my ambition it’s my dream it’s my ultimate but until then, I’m happy to be able to contribute in, any shape or form to the game,” he added.