Quo vadis Bafana?

2015-02-15 15:00

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Bafana Bafana had to take a shower and catch an early flight home after failing to make the quarterfinals of this year’s continental soccer showpiece, the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).

It has been reported that coach Shakes Mashaba has already verbally reported about the tournament to the Safa technical committee.

This report, according to insiders, will form part of deliberations at the Safa national executive committee meeting on March 28.

Until then, the nation shall hold its collective breath.

If I were Safa, I would open the report review proceedings by asking Shakes why he went to Afcon with a depleted squad.

Why did he not start with the same team that kicked Nigeria out of the competition, right in their own back yard?

They should also ask the coach about his selection criteria, his game plan and philosophy.

For instance, why go into the tournament without a captain and number one goalkeeper?

When he was appointed, I celebrated the fact that Safa had finally woken up to the fact that our local coaches will always be a better option than expensive foreign ones, whose tactics have failed woefully in the past.

I was, however, still not sure Shakes was the right South African to coach Bafana.

The man proved me wrong when he took over a team that was scraping the bottom of the barrel. It seemed they were soaring to new heights and we qualified for Afcon without suffering a defeat.

Our poor performance at the main event, however, rudely brought back the reasons for my earlier doubts over his capabilities.

When Shakes took over, he indulged himself in the new South African pastime of not building on the foundation of predecessors.

He opted instead to start over, with the construction of a new Bafana Bafana.

I have noted this in other spheres of society, where those who newly assume positions of authority nullify the efforts of those who came before them.

This is simply done selfishly in the name of building a legacy, often at great cost and with the loss of institutional memory.

So when Shakes took over Bafana, he focused mostly on players he had nurtured at development level while discarding a lot of seasoned players from the previous regime. To my utter surprise, this worked wonders and he was celebrated in some quarters as the new exponent of “Madiba magic”.

This emboldened him into believing he could achieve success with average players. He set out to prove he could do without the country’s so-called soccer stars, who he seems to wholly detest.

But though his starter pack of players worked wonders during qualification, they failed dismally on the big stage. It will probably be the same at the even bigger stage of the World Cup.

The country expects immediate results – not promises for the future.

What I am saying is that if Safa expects Shakes to build the future Bafana, then they are giving him the wrong platform.

They should rather take him back to development structures, to nurture young players who can feed into the senior Bafana team.

Building starts at the foundation, not the roof.

I do not think Safa should do the obvious and get rid of Shakes, because I believe he has the capability to make us a winning football nation again. But he performs best at the developmental level.

In my view, he lacks the emotional intelligence to deal with established players at the senior level.

At that stage players are not taught basics, such as control and passing, but rather tactics and composure. Most of them are already stars at their respective clubs and this often comes with prima donna baggage, which requires higher levels of tolerance and maturity. In my opinion, Shakes is terribly lacking in that department.

Another factor that is Safa’s responsibility is for them to involve former Bafana players in giving coaching and technical advice. Why do we not have a former Bafana star with coaching pedigree at the helm of the team?

Doing precisely that is the norm in the world of soccer. Coaches such as Dunga in Brazil and Nigeria’s Stephen Keshi previously played for their countries.

Alternatively, Safa could at least rope such experienced men in as part of their technical committee. Former players’ valuable input and expertise is unfortunately only acknowledged and used gainfully as television commentators.

If Safa insists on continuing with Shakes, then they must impose conditions that can assist him in making Bafana world champions.

They should start with a serious counselling session to rid him of the phobia he seems to display when faced with established soccer stars, especially those based overseas.

It does not matter where they ply their soccer trade, they still remain South African. A winning formula for this country is to use the best talent available.

Somebody at Safa needs to tell Shakes he should stop playing Russian roulette with South African emotions.

Maisela is a management consultant and published author

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