Will SA bear with Shakes?

2014-08-02 00:00

SO eventually, Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba is back in the saddle as Bafana Bafana coach.

This is the third time that he ascends the throne and many feel that with a 63% win record in his previous two stints, and the success he has achieved with junior national teams, he is the man.

He becomes the third local coach in a row to be given the task of guiding Bafana Bafana with his two predecessors — Pitso Mosimane and Gordon Igesund — having failed dismally to meet their mandates set by their bosses at the South African Football Association (Safa).

It’s been a while since the national team qualified for anything or even made the nation proud.

Expecting Mashaba to wave a magic wand and make problems facing South African football disappear, will be rather too much to ask.

Coaching, a field where Safa has been running a trial and error system since this country was accepted back to the global family in 1992 — is not the only problem facing South African football.

There are many problems that have led to this country failing to produce players that can make a mark on the international front.

While we saw in the World Cup players still in their teens and early 20s make a mark and thus get lucrative contracts with big clubs, in South Africa a 26-year-old is still called a “youngster”.

While we saw a steady flow of South African players to Europe in the mid-90s, this has become a trickle and South Africa has struggled to get players signed by clubs in the top European leagues such as England, Spain, Germany, France and Italy. As things stand — Steven Pienaar (Everton, England) and Thulani Serero (Ajax, Holland) — are the only two players one can say play for top sides in Europe. And as we all know, Pienaar is in self-imposed exile from the national team and he is no longer a spring chicken either.

In the period between 1992 and now, South Africa has had 26 coaches, that is if one counts people like Mashaba, Jomo Sono and Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira who have had more than one stint. If one counts the coaches individually, the country has gone through nine locals and seven foreign coaches.

Have the results been different? The answer is a big NO!

This shows that the problem does not lie in coaching alone.

So the next question that begs an answer, is: How long will it take for Shakes Mashaba to be in the hot seat if the other myriad of problems besetting South African football are not addressed, like yesterday? Will the nation — with whom he is such a great favourite — bear with him if he fails to qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.

I think for starters, Safa must spell out Mashaba’s mandate and confirm that his appointment is not yet another attempt at a quick-fix. They should set out a proper plan that not only addresses Bafana but the entire national teams set-up from the U15s up to the U23s.

Now that Mashaba has been taken off from the Under-20 project that he started with the Under-17s with whom he had won the Zone V (Southern African Championship), before winning the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa Under-20 tournament) and is on course to qualify them for the African Under-20 Championships, who is going to take over?

Safa’s plan was to have him take this team to the 2015 Under-20 World Cup, the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as U23’s and eventually qualify them for the 2018 World Cup in Russia as the senior team.

This sounded like a good plan but does his appointment as Bafana Bafana coach mean that it is abandoned or will the new man have to start afresh?

Such is the dilemma that South African football finds itself in that Safa has to use what in marketing is called a shot-gun approach which will be similar to laying a foundation, building walls, installing doors and windows while erecting a roof all at the same time.

Can this work?

I don’t think so but I also don’t think Safa has an alternative but to address all problems facing South African football simultaneously.

• 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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