Pressing Issues: Mashaba, a man for all seasons

2014-10-03 13:45

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Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba is fast proving to be a man for all seasons.

After shocking people by boldly ­selecting a mostly young and untested team for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Sudan and Nigeria, Mashaba this week bolstered the squad with a few experienced players.

But he continued to show faith in the youth by calling up Santos FC striker Fagrie Lakay.

Also named were Thulani Serero from Ajax Amsterdam, and Kaizer Chiefs pair Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Tefu Mashamaite.

Yeye (Letsholonyane) has been in top form controlling the engine room at Amakhosi. Mashamaite crowned his season by snatching the sole goal in the MTN8 final last Saturday, giving his club a 1-0 victory over Orlando Pirates.

These various selections have shown that Mashaba is flexible as a coach.

While he has had to focus on the blooding of youth – a mandate from his bosses at the SA Football Association – he is willing to reward good form in players who are past the age of development, like Letsholonyane and Mashamaite.

He has also shown his ability to foresee trouble on the horizon. Past experience has shown you can’t take a bunch of youngsters to a place like Pointe-Noire in Congo-Brazzaville without the help of some tough veterans.

As things stand, Congo is sitting pretty much at the top of Group?A following a hard-earned away victory over Nigeria and a cruise against the group’s whipping boys, Sudan.

They have six points out of six to Bafana’s four, thanks to the Sudan win and a draw against nemesis Nigeria.

The Super Eagles of Nigeria can’t be ruled out as yet; they have back-to-back fixtures against Sudan, where they are expected to collect a maximum six points. This would bring them back into contention. And they will still have a home fixture against Bafana, as well as an outing to Congo.

So Mashaba’s boys still need to put in a lot of work.

But the coach’s selection has shown the man is becoming quite an expert at juggling on his journey to success.

It is a hazardous road – ask any coach worth their salt and they will tell you the job is never as tough as when you are leading your country.

Mashaba will do well to heed the ­advice of erstwhile Coca-Cola CEO ­Brian G Dyson, who served the ­company for 35 years, occupying the hot seat from 1986 to 1991.

In a speech lasting 30 seconds – with the key message “Value has value only if its value is valued” – he told staff members they should “imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air”.

Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.

But the other four – representing family, health, friends and spirit – are made of glass and need to be handled carefully. If you drop any of them, they may crack or even shatter completely.

Mashaba reminds me of Sir Thomas More in the classic play by Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons. The story is based on the life of More, the 16th-century Chancellor of England.

He was a man of principle, envied by rivals but loved by the common people and by his family.

There will be many malicious characters, like Thomas Cromwell in Bolt’s play, waiting to plunge a dagger into Mashaba’s back should he falter.

He must stay focused. So far so good.

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