Gossip is the cancer in Banyana

2012-01-21 21:11

Backstabbing and badmouthing have become the order of the day in the Banyana Banyana camp as the coach, players and officials jostle for seats on the plane heading for the London Olympics.

Fran Hilton-Smith, Safa women’s football technical director, is accused of interfering with selection, coach Joseph Mkhonza is said to be out of his depth and manager Zanele Khanyile has been criticised for incompetence.

City Press has learned that Hilton-Smith is at the centre of the latest storm in the camp.

Sources who asked not to be named allege that she is trying to influence the authorities to get rid of team manager Khanyile so she can take over.

They say she has tried to pick the team for “Skheshekheshe” Mkhonza. They also accuse her of wanting some players dropped and her preferences included in the team preparing for London.

Hilton-Smith is the former coach and manager of the team.

A high-ranking Safa official told City Press that Hilton-Smith has allegedly told Safa senior management that Khanyile was incompetent and should be relieved of her duties.

“Fran wants to do everything in women’s soccer.

“She wants to be the manager, coach and technical head,” said the source.

The team has attracted negative publicity which has overshadowed their preparations and last week Safa sent a high-level delegation to Cape Town, where the team is camping, to try to defuse the tension.

“A whole lot of accusations were levelled against Fran at the meeting and it appeared she is the cause of all the trouble in the team.

Players were told to be free and we were surprised by what they said,” said one of the members at the meeting.

Another source present at that meeting told City Press that the players were not happy with Mkhonza’s methods. This is despite Mkhonza having led the team to the London games.

His detractors point out that Banyana were in a relatively easy group and so not too much credit should be given to their qualification.

They say two successive defeats against regional superpower Zimbabwe placed Mkhonza’s achievements in the proper perspective.

Safa director of national teams Lindile “Ace” Kika said the players and the coaching staff had raised some concerns but had not revealed details.

“We went on a fact-finding mission in Cape Town last week because we’re worried Banyana are getting negative publicity. We want the nation to rally behind the team and not focus on negative things,” he said.

Mkhonza refused to be drawn on the alleged interference except to say all was well.

“As far as I’m concerned things that were discussed are confidential. I’m not at liberty to reveal information about the meeting. I can tell you the spirit is high in the team and players are looking forward to the challenge,” he said.

Hilton-Smith denied being a troublemaker. “I am technical director and my role is to assess the national teams to ensure they perform at their best. I am supposed to help Mkhonza on what I have observed but I don’t tell him what to do.

“I have my own domain and I know my job description. I never interfered in Mkhonza’s job nor in selection,” she said.

She said she had worked with the coach for over 20 years and they got along very well.

“I am here to help him if he needs any advice. I have been to many the world cups in recent times and I have a good idea of the level and standard that is needed so I can assist the coach to prepare. But I have no intention of going back to the team, I have made it a policy of my life to get on with people.”

Serame Letsoaka, Safa’s technical director, pleaded ignorance to the allegations.

“I am not aware of any misunderstanding in the team; this is just speculation. We are behind our coach and we will give him the necessary support,” said Letsoaka. - additional reporting by Timothy Molobi

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