No experimenting at national level

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

Over the years, I have maintained that the national team - Bafana Bafana - or any national team at that - is not a place to experiment.

This is a stage where any coach who gets appointed to the position, must know his story.

The national team can never be used as a guinea pig to test if certain methods or combinations do work. This is also not a platform to be used to prove a point.

It is with this in mind that I feel Shakes Mashaba's snubbing of overseas-based players ahead of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Equatorial Guinea earlier this year was typical of cutting ones nose to spite your face.

The result was that he ended up going into a war armed with a knife where countries such as the Ivory Coast and Ghana - who were incidentally the two finalists - brought their big guns in the like of Yaya Toure, Gervinho, Andre and Jordan  Ayew.

As a result of this, it came as no surprise to many when Bafana Bafana bombed out of the first round after  a 3-1 loss to Africa No 1, Algeria, a 1-all draw against Senegal and a 2-1 loss to Ghana.

What was ironic, was that they scored first in all their three Group Stage matches. This was an indication that the team lacked character.

Now, Mashaba has made a U-turn and included the likes of Thulani Serero, May Mahlangu, Ayanda Patosi and Kamohelo Mokotjo in the squad for this weekend's friendly against Nigeria.

Well Mahlangu has once more pulled out due to injury but that's beside my point.

If these players were not good then, why and how are they now good enough to play for the national team?

Oh! By the way, Mashaba denies that he has made a U-turn. Really now?

It is actually a matter of being made to eat humble pie. Mashaba must just admit that he made a mistake and move on.

It is a fact that our football in this country is not at a world-class level. It is also a fact that overseas clubs do not sign players just because they like their smug.

They sign them because they are good. European clubs always go for the cream of the crop.

So, for us as a country to go to an international tournament without some of our best players, is unheard of and should not have happened.

The South African Football Association (SAFA) did well by intervening in this matter but this might have been a bit too late as they should have put their foot down before the Afcon tournament.

Anyway, that's water under the bridge but one hopes that the lesson has not been missed.

Going forward, as Pitso Mosimane, whose sideshow stole the thunder this week as he moaned the exclusion of his players in the squad for the international friendly against Nigeria, all good coaches the world over, always field their best squads in every match.

Bafana Bafana must field the best squad available in every match.

By the way, Mosimane cannot be blamed for questioning the exclusion of his players such as Siyanda Zwane, Mzikayise Mashaba, Hlompho Kekana, Tebogo Langerman and Teko Modise from the national team.

After all, Sundowns are playing the best football in the PSL at present and they are banging in the goals nogal.

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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