Is Shakes losing it?

S’Busiso Mseleku (File)
S’Busiso Mseleku (File)

Things are not going well with Shakes Mashaba and the South African senior national football team, Bafana Bafana.

It might be an exaggeration to say things have reached a crisis point right now, but we are at a stage where we have to dig deep into our memory vaults for the last time the team won a significant match.

Gone is that swashbuckling group that reminded us of a phoenix in the way they went about qualifying for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Equatorial Guinea.

But it seems that's where it all ended.

They came back without a win from that tournament after having led in all their three opening matches only to buckle under pressure.

We were sold the spin that the team had gelled well before time as Mashaba's mandate had never been 2015, but the goal was the 2017 AFCON version and the 2018 Soccer World Cup in Russia.

When the draw for the 2017 AFCON in Gabon was conducted, pitting Bafana against Gambia, Mauritania and African soccer giants Cameroon, it was followed by the usual "it's an easy group to qualify from".

But the opening match against Gambia on Saturday - who are by no means one of the top football-playing national on the continent - told a different story.

A goalless draw at home is not a good way to start the road to qualifying for a major tournament. The proven recipe for success has usually been to win all your home games and play for at least a draw away.

But Bafana seem to have forgotten how to win.

Where did it all go wrong?

I don't have all the answers but I have made a few observations.

Mashaba has strayed from his initial philosophy of selecting players on current form as he did at the beginning of his tenure.

His way of choosing players have become mind-boggling and no one seems to understand what method he uses these days in selecting players for the national team.

The coach is picking up fights with anyone who disagrees with him and his press conferences have become confrontational as he uses the platform to fight his detractors.

Latest example was his tiff with Ajax Cape Town mentor Roger de Sa. The  pair exchanged blows publicly in the media about the selection or non-selection of Cape Town-based players.

Last week, Mashaba was at pains in responding to striker Kermit Erasmus' tweet that he was not a back-up player.

These are signs of a man who is fast losing it.

Advice to Mashaba will be that he cannot respond to anything and everything that is said about him.

Remember that when he was appointed, one journalist referred to him as a "cheap option"? Mashaba hit the ceiling and jumped up and down like a cat on a hot tin roof.

By now, the veteran coach - whose record speaks volumes - should be knowing that the best way to shut critics' mouths is by achieving results.

The world over, good coaches speak through the results they achieve while great players do their talking with their boots on the field of play.

But those who waste time responding to everything negative that is said about them, lose focus and end up playing into the hands of their detractors.

Mashaba must just shut up and start winning matches and all the noises he is hearing around him now, will subside.

Can you imagine if cars stopped along the way and barked back at the dogs or joggers did the same?

Get my point?

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.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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