Molefi Ntseki ticked all the boxes required by Safa’s technical committee to land the Bafana Bafana coaching job.
This is what convinced the Safa hierarchy to unanimously appoint the 50-year-old during its national executive committee (NEC) meeting at Safa House in Nasrec, Johannesburg, yesterday.
Ntseki – who was appointed interim coach three weeks ago – takes over from former head coach Stuart Baxter, who resigned last month.
City Press can confirm that Ntseki went head-to-head with Cape Town City coach Benni McCarthy as the last two men standing for the vacant position.
Safa’s technical committee chairperson, Jack Maluleke, said Ntseki had all the qualities required to take the team forward.
“We are not doing him a favour,” said Maluleke yesterday. “He fits well with our vision and has all the necessary skills and qualifications for the job.”
Maluleke admitted that the process to fill the vacant post had not been easy: “We had to deliberate a lot before deciding. We had so many good candidates for the position. We are happy that the process is over now and that we can move on.”
He said Ntseki would choose his own technical team.
“We will not dictate who must form part of his technical team. He has to tell us who he wants to work with, and we will support his decision.”
Maluleke said the technical committee would now turn its focus to filling the vacant coaching positions for the Under-17 and Under-20 national teams.
Ntseki’s appointment means he will vacate his post as the coach of Amajimbos, while Amajita will also require a new coach following Thabo Senong’s departure.
Senong has been appointed as the head coach of the Crocodiles, Lesotho’s national team.
Russell Paul, Safa’s acting chief executive, said: “The Safa NEC unanimously agreed on Ntseki for the role on the basis of someone who knows the South African football culture and Vision 2022, among the 10 to 15 criteria used.”
He added that the search for Baxter’s replacement was not a question of Safa going for a local or foreign coach, but was rather about finding “somebody who fitted the bill and the mould that Safa has”.
Paul was also quick to dismiss any perceptions that Safa could not afford a so-called big-name coach.
“It has nothing to do with the finances. Everything was dealt with based on the criteria.”
While Paul said that Safa had received a long list of hopefuls from all parts of the world, he refused to share some of the prominent names who had shown interest.
The next step, said Paul, was for Safa to sit down with Ntseki to formalise his appointment, which comes with the mandate of qualifying Bafana Bafana for the 2021 and 2023 Afcon tournaments, as well as the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Although Ntseki has a proven track record with the junior national teams, he is still inexperienced in coaching at senior level.
While some say he is too much of a “softie” for the tough job, Ntseki said in a recent interview with City Press that his cool demeanour should not be misinterpreted as a weakness.
The mentor, who hails from Botshabelo in the Free State, has worked mainly behind the scenes as an assistant coach to former Bafana coaches Shakes Mashaba and, most recently, Baxter.
Ntseki’s first official assignment as the man in charge is the friendly match that Bafana is scheduled to play against Zambia in Lusaka on Saturday. He will be looking to win over hard-to-please South African fans.
During the team’s announcement last week, Ntseki pleaded for support amid the pressure that comes with coaching Bafana.
“Seated here, I haven’t played a match and I haven’t lost a friendly. I know that I have all the support. But if something goes wrong – remember, it’s football, and so we will win, draw or lose – people will say: ‘We don’t think he is the right person for the job,’” said Ntseki.
“Giving me a chance means that I will be making mistakes as a person. All that’s important is that I have to own up to them. If I have made a mistake, I must accept that I have made a mistake on this one. I am saying to South Africans: ‘Let’s support our team.’”
Ntseki’s appointment has ended weeks of speculation during Safa’s search for a permanent coach.
Initially, Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane was touted among the list of contenders, who included Bidvest Wits’ Gavin Hunt and Steve Komphela of Golden Arrows.
However, Mosimane (55) reiterated this week that he was not interested in returning to the post he held from August 2010 to June 2012, when he was fired.
Instead, he revealed that he was still suffering the scars of being sacked “by a taxi owner, a priest and a traditional chief”.
“I don’t want my fate to be in those people’s hands again. Never in my life,” Mosimane told the media on Thursday during a question-and-answer session to preview his team’s MTN8 semifinal clash against SuperSport United this afternoon.
This was in reference to Safa’s former technical committee chairperson Fanyana Sibanyoni, former chief executive Robin Peterson and former vice-president Chief Mwelo Nokanyana, who were some of the decision-makers at the time.
Mosimane was fired shortly after Bafana drew 1-1 against Egypt in their opening 2014 World Cup qualifiers in Rustenburg.
He said he was in favour of a local coach taking over, and picked McCarthy, Hunt, Komphela and Ntseki as those who should be considered.