- SAFA technical committee member and director of coaching for SAFA Cape Town, Boebie Solomons, discusses the factors involved in recommending the next Bafana Bafana coach.
- The man, who started the High-level Football Academy in Stellenbosch, unpacks the deficiencies in South African football and whether or not Vision 2022 has been a failure.
- The ex-Santos mentor also reveals if he harbours regrets having never coached one of South Africa’s big three clubs over his career and picks his top midfielders in today’s game.
Sport24 asked: What are South African football’s main deficiencies?
Boebie Solomons: We can look at the failure of the Bafana Bafana team but there are so many aspects missing before you get to the men’s senior national team. I’m more inclined to inculcate a medium-to-long-term plan to try and help the players when they get to Bafana level. We need to have people within the technical committee who can guide the national coaches in terms of where to draw talent from and not just look at a name brand. We need to look at the bigger picture and develop our players better in order to play at international level. Our players are not well-developed from a young age, which means that even when they get to professional level not enough are of international standard. As someone who has been involved in higher-level football and who studies the international game, I can see that our players are far behind as far as their tactical abilities are concerned and are selected on their technical proficiencies. Tactically, our teams are very poor and we must call a spade a spade. Playing at club level is one thing but the step up to international level is too big for many of our players. We need to ensure our development programmes are done properly so that we can enhance that talent to make them reach the international standard. We need to analyse and evaluate our players in all spheres of the game – technically, tactically, psychologically and physically - and see where they need to be worked on. At club level, we are not working on player deficiencies because the coaches aren’t really interested in developing players. They are more interested in winning games. As a national association and technical committee, we should spend more time zooming into players with the ability and providing programmes for them.
Sport24 asked: Would you say that Vision 2022 has proved a failure?
Boebie Solomons: I don’t think it has failed. If you look at the Bafana Bafana team you can say that we didn’t reach the goal but there are many South Africans playing abroad, the coaching department has been through many coaching courses and fairly good structures have been put in place. Overall, you can’t say that Vision 2022 has failed just because Bafana didn’t make AFCON 2022 or might not qualify for the World Cup. I believe that qualifying for the World Cup is our problem because we only look at the short-term. We need to explore something that is sustainable and long-term. We need to look at qualifying for the next 20 World Cups and not just Qatar 2022. We won AFCON 1996 and subsequently struggled to qualify. That is a key fault of ours that can be highlighted. We need to take it further and to do that you need a brains trust who have coached professional football and know international standards. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel and I don’t agree with the sentiment of needing to play our own brand of football. What is the South African way? There’s nothing that we can invent anymore and have to play what the game demands.
Sport24 asked: How was the next Bafana Bafana coach decided upon?
Boebie Solomons: I was recently drafted onto SAFA’s technical committee and we had extensive discussions on whether to recommend a foreign or local coach. We know that we need to develop local coaches to reach the international standard. We also looked at international coaches who we felt could add value. There is no right or wrong answer and you cannot say that a coach coming from outside the country is going to succeed or fail and you can’t say a local coach will. Nobody knows that but we can look at what’s important for the short and long-term. It’s about finding the balance and I don’t think one person can do it. I believe we need an amalgamation of different people to try reach the short and medium-term objectives and then also the long-term. We gave our recommendations as the technical committee but it’s the NEC (National Executive Committee) who made the final decision which is based on availability, financial system etc. (The next Bafana boss will be named next week). We felt that we needed a local coach and have enough good local mentors to be able to do the job. However, we also need international experience to try and help us in the immediate term. As a committee we looked at finding the balance. I think Carlos Queiroz (who has been tipped as the man to succeed Molefi Ntseki) is a very good person for us to have as a country. In the past, we have failed to see the qualities of people like him. He is someone who is not only a day-to-day coach. They are a dime a dozen but coaches that can design plans to attain long-term success and input programmes that can add to what we must achieve are worth their weight in gold.
Sport24 asked: Your take on Benni McCarthy’s coaching development?
Boebie Solomons: Benni is making steady progress as a coach. (He has guided AmaZulu to third place in the DSTV Premiership). As a player we obviously know his career. However, playing and coaching are completely different. We think that if somebody played in England or in the UEFA Champions League then they have the ability to lead their country. I played professional football for 10 years and I thought I knew a lot about the game until I attended my first coaching course. You gain valuable experience by playing internationally but that is not what is required for you to become a good coach. I had a word with Benni two weeks’ ago and even he feels that he needs a bit more time and experience in the coaching world. Benni is definitely one for the future but he could also be one for now. Nobody knows if he would succeed or not. But it’s best to back the horse that has already won races. If you back a horse that has never won a race then you are stupid because you are just throwing the dice. Theory is one thing and the practical aspect is another altogether. You’ve got to be able to marry the two and that’s where experience comes from. You gain experience by coaching at a high level, researching regularly, studying the latest developments of the game and keeping up with the modern technology, sports medicine and the science of training.
Sport24 asked: What has led to Sundowns’ rise and Kaizer Chiefs’ fall?
Boebie Solomons: In terms of their programmes, Sundowns are emulating what the top teams in the world are doing. They may have more money than the rest but the way they are train sets them apart. They are wiser than many other teams and have personnel in their midst who can carry out what other top teams in the world do. If you want to be a top team in your country you just have to look at what top teams in the world are doing and tailor-make it to suit your needs in every aspect. When it comes to training facilities, equipment, support systems and scientific knowledge and you get what is needed then you are going to be at the top. In terms of Kaizer Chiefs’ struggles, Gavin Hunt is the right man for the job because he has proved himself. Gavin has to be given the right materials. If I’m a builder and you give me materials for a single house and want me to build a 10-story I’m going to struggle. Chiefs must give Hunt the tools he needs - not what they think he needs.
Sport24 asked: Any regrets having never coached one of the big three?
Boebie Solomons: I would have liked to have had an opportunity to coach a big team in South Africa. I coached smaller teams and got fairly good results. I feel that if I had the same quality of players that the bigger teams had then I would have been untouchable. I was so used to making up in other areas to improve my team but I had been given the backing at one of the big clubs in South Africa, I think I would have won many trophies. It would have been based on my motivational and tactical skills. In terms of ever eyeing the Bafana job, if I look at the support structures and what you need as a national coach to succeed, I wasn’t very interested. I didn’t want to be a national coach that only lasted for one year. There are many things that need to be put in place and, as an example, during the most recent AFCON qualifiers the players were sleeping at the airport on the floor for six hours and didn’t get enough food. How can you win games under those conditions? If the correct support structures are not in place to enhance high-performance then you have no chance as national coach.
Sport24 asked: Who do you rate as the best midfielders in the game?
Boebie Solomons: Kevin de Bruyne is an excellent attacking player. He comes from deep and boasts the ability to score goals. He is a very intelligent and accurate player. In a recent game I thought to myself, “How did he thread that ball through the defence for his teammate to get on the end of it?” I think Thiago Alcantara is a very underrated midfielder in the game today. He really stood out at Barcelona and Bayern Munich but at Liverpool he’s not yet excelling. My view is that Liverpool can’t play Thiago and Georginio Wijnaldum in the same team because they are too similar in playing style. Thiago is the brains of the team and if he is played alone I feel he would be more effective. On a local front, Hlompho Kekana has proved he can play in all phases of the game. He can break down play and tackle like Linda ‘Mercedes Benz’ Buthelezi used to, can make play like the late ‘Shoes’ Moshoeu did and can shoot from outside the box and score goals. He’s a more complete player than many other SA footballers and I’m delighted with his development since coaching him at Black Leopards.