Why Santana had to go

2009-10-20 00:00

WITH 233 days to go until the kick-off of the 2010 World Cup, Joel Santana and the SA Football Association have agreed that the Brazilian will step down as Bafana Bafana coach.

Santana has come under increasing pressure as Bafana’s form dipped alarmingly since he guided South Africa to a creditable fourth place at the Confederations Cup in June, losing five of his next six friendlies.

Speculation has been that former Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, who was replaced by Santana after leaving the post in April last year citing his wife’s poor health, might return to the job. Parreira is currently unemployed, having been sacked by Brazilian club Fluminense in July.

Other names mentioned have included current assistants Pitso Mosimane and Jairo Leal, SuperSport United coach Gavin Hunt, Maritzburg United boss Gordon Igesund and Jomo Cosmos coach and owner Jomo Sono. Mosimane and Leal are to take over Bafana in a caretaker role.

The announcement was made yesterday at a press conference in Johannesburg, following a meeting attended by new Safa president Kirsten Nematandani, his three deputies — Mandla “Shoes” Mazibuko, Irvin Khoza and Mwelo Nonkonyana — 2010 Local Organising Committee CEO Danny Jordaan, Safa CEO Raymond Hack and NEC member Alpha Mchunu.

Speaking to The Witness last night, Safa vice president Mazibuko said that while Santana had been given two more matches to be assessed by Hunt and former Bafana coaches Sono and Clive Barker, the coach and Safa have since agreed that Santana is unlikely to be successful in the job.

“The coach agreed amicably and it was mutual between us that, in light of Bafana’s poor results in the past few months, it was in the interests of the coach and the country and the team that he would leave the job,” Mazibuko said.

With Santana not officially fired, it is unlikely that the remainder of his contract will have to be paid out, although Mazibuko would not confirm this, saying “such matters are confidential”.

Mazibuko denied reports that a new coach could be announced as soon as Friday, when the NEC will meet again.

“It is … an NEC meeting that was long scheduled,” he said. “Having given Santana two more matches to be assessed, we were taken by surprise by his decision to leave earlier, so how could we have been talking to another coach?”

The Safa vice president said Santana’s lack of experience at international level, having coached at 27 club posts, but no national ones, in a 27-year career before taking the Bafana job, counted against him being successful as coach of the 2010 hosts.

“He tried his best as coach of Bafana Bafana, and while he is one of the best club coaches in the world, he acknowledged that he was unable to adapt to the challenges of being a national coach.”

Mazibuko said Safa remains confident that Bafana can be competitive come the 2010 World Cup in eight months’ time.

“We are fortunate that the rest of the technical staff remains intact, so there will still be some continuity.

“What we need right now is not to make wholesale changes, and to get someone who can just add that spark that is needed to turn things around and get the team winning again.”

Santana was in charge of Bafana for 27 games, winning 10, losing 14 and drawing three.

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