True to form, Mashaba goes against convention in his selections

2014-11-08 00:00

SHAKES Mashaba is a brave man.

No. Make that daring.

Many expected him to select an experienced goalkeeper as part of his Bafana Bafana team for the final two crucial Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers against Sudan and Nigeria.

The name of Bidvest Wits goal-minder Moeneeb Josephs was bandied about and I would go with him, especially for the tough away game against Nigeria.

But no, Mashaba proved once more to be a man of his own as he selected Darren Keet (25) as the first-choice goalkeeper and then continued with his trend of rewarding form by calling up Platinum Stars’s Siyabonga Mpontshane (28) and Kaizer Chiefs’ Brilliant Khuzwayo (24).

This means that Mashaba has gone against the common belief in football that goalkeepers peek after their 30th birthday as all three selected goalkeepers are younger.

Mashaba’s choices also mean that there is no room for the 34-year-old ­Josephs, whose form has improved impressively since the time he kept goal for Bafana against Nigeria, with a poor performance leading to Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula having a go at him and calling the national team “a bunch of losers”.

Having answered the burning question of who will replace Senzo Meyiwa as Bafana Bafana goalkeeper, the next tricky question is: Who will take over the captain’s armband as Itumeleng Khune is still injured?

Again, expect Mashaba to surprise and prove once more that he is not a conformist.

Already, a number of names, such as those of Dean Furman, Thulani Serero and Tefo Mashamaite, have been suggested.

But once more, don’t be surprised if Mashaba doesn’t follow popular choice and isn’t swayed by public demand, and instead chooses a player who he believes in.

Mashaba’s leadership skills are just as legendary as they are unquestionable.

This is one of the reasons he was among the longest-serving captains at Orland Pirates and is still regarded as one of the most successful, if not the most successful Buccaneers captain.

Those who swear by the skull and crossbones and are a bit longish in the tooth, would still have fond memories of how the then gap-toothed Mashaba led the Sea Robbers to an unprecedented clean sweep of the five trophies that were on offer in 1973.

These are the kind of leadership skills he has used in his coaching career.

It is quite obvious that he has created an atmosphere at Bafana Bafana where the players regard him as a father figure.

When he took over in July, he inherited a team who were a bunch of no hopers destined for defeat. Even the South African Football Association (Safa) did not name Afcon qualification as a mandate for Mashaba.

They actually said he must prepare the team for the 2017 Afcon and also aim for the 2018 Soccer World Cup.

But boy, has he turned things around.

Everyone associated with the national team now sees qualification for next year’s event in Morocco as guaranteed.

To Josephs, I would say he must keep up the good performance and hope for a recall to the national team as Mashaba has proved that he does reward performance.

I know Josephs announced his retirement from international football, but at 34 he is still a spring chicken in football and goalkeeping parlance.

Even SuperSport United goalkeeper Ronwen Williams will still have his day.

But for now, the million-dollar question is: Who will be Bafana’s next captain?

Knowing Mashaba, he might just keep the nation guessing until the eve of the match against Sudan, which is on November 15.

Who do you think should be captain?

• S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa’s leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press sports editor.

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