Exit Parreira

2008-04-23 00:00

It is a great pity that Bafana Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira is, because of the illness of his wife, having to leave his post prematurely, scarcely 15 months into the contract that should have led to the 2010 Soccer World Cup. This could be a huge setback for Bafana Bafana, for he leaves just as they have begun to show signs — as in their recent win over Paraguay — of having turned the corner away from a poor performance at the African Cup of Nations and a string of other mediocre results.

As is well known, it can take time — perhaps even several years — for a coach to put together a winning combination, a process re-quiring not only a knowledge of the game, but also ingenuity, wit and human understanding. When Parreira took over last year the team was in disarray and the administration was plagued by political and other conflicts. He began to deal with these problems intelligently and diplomatically — especially when it came to overseas players whose loyalties were divided — to weld together an effective team. Observers felt that, in the time available before 2010, he would have brought to South African soccer the kind of stability that now characterises our national rugby and cricket sides — a stability that would guarantee a good performance from Bafana Bafana in 2010. Which is, of course, of great importance to the tournament.

If the home side sparkles, so does the competition as a whole, with plenty of public support, good crowds and good returns. If, on the other hand, Bafana Bafana play badly and are eliminated early, the atmosphere will be generally dampened and the competition could be compromised — devastating for the economy and making a mockery of the effort now going into World Cup preparations.

It’s essential, therefore, that everything possible be done to continue and reinforce the process Parreira has set in motion. It looks as if this will happen automatically if, as is suggested, a like-minded coach steps into the position, and if, at some geographical remove, Parreira himself continues in an advisory capacity.

However, as with so many things in this country, it’s important not to oversimplify or accept all of these developments unquestioningly. There are rumours, after all, that Parreira (who, as an international coach, has been away from home for many years in the past few decades) is using his wife’s illness as an excuse to get away from some untenable administrative situation here. Whether there’s any truth in such allegations, the loss of our national soccer coach is of sufficient importance for us to demand to know all the facts.

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